With the Paris attacks in the news over the last week. I’ve been struggling with mixed feelings. The loss of life during the Charlie Hebdo and market attacks was devastating. Radicals, extremists and fear mongers shattered our fragile sense of security as our airwaves became saturated with paranoia and mistrust. The Charlie Hebdo attacks came as a body blow to freedom of expression.
But even free speech has its limits. As a member of the media, a writer and a freelance photographer I understand how difficult it is to walk this line. But just because we can say it, doesn’t mean we should. I feel that Charlie Hebdo crossed a line in their depictions of the Prophet Mohamed. It was unnecessary, inflammatory and frankly racist. Now during the painful and emotional clean up of a tragedy, they seek to show the terrorists the strength of their pen by publishing yet another depiction of Mohamed on their front cover.
With over 3 million copies flying off the shelves, … sigh. Where do we go from here?
I choose to take comfort in the words of the wise:
“I think both freedom of religion and freedom of expression are both fundamental human rights,” he said, adding that he was talking specifically about the Paris killings.
“Everyone has not only the freedom and the right but the obligation to say what he thinks for the common good … we have the right to have this freedom openly without offending,” he said.
To illustrate his point, he turned to an aide and said: “It is true that you must not react violently, but although we are good friends if (he) says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch, it’s normal.”
To the writers at Charlie Hebdo I plead, stop this terrible circle of hate. Do not use the faith of many as a sword against the terrorists. Do not allow them to use you in this way. The power of your pen can and should invoke change and understanding. Stop these mean spirited attacks on the Muslim community. For they are not your enemy.
I am not Charlie, but I am human. Let’s stop the hate.
But I will continue to defend free speech, even when I don’t like it. Every.Single.Time.
I’ll leave you with the wise words of Rick Mercer and my favorite cartoon penned after the attacks by artist Lucille Clerc.