During and shortly after the Paris attacks, I couldn’t help but watch in wonder at the millions of well intentioned masses coming together in support of “freedom of speech” with the slogan “Juis Suis Charlie”. Freedom of speech, even in the west, does not come without responsibility and civic duty towards others. It is not a carte blanche writ to abuse, threaten, incite or provoke others regardless if the law permits the speech or forbids it. Even Pope Francis acknowledged this civic responsibility towards others in his statement, “If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch…”
Now, I may be a Muslim, but this Pope is just rad!
In all of the misguided attention offering sympathy for the magazine, the people who died were on the back burner. Some of them more telling of the greatness of the freedom of French society… if people really cared about that. One for example is 42-year-old Ahmed Merabet. Ahmed was the police officer who stood up to the terrorists. Ahmed was a French citizen and a Muslim. As soon as he saw what was happening, he tried to stop it and paid with his life.
As horrific of a tragedy as the Paris attacks were (and cartoonists don’t deserve to die doing their jobs) it seems that the better way to exemplify the greatness of French freedom, society and culture would not be to pander to those demanding Muslims (many who are french and already in the choir of support) assimilate by accepting people’s right to incite and provoking them with slogans like “Juis suis Charlie”. The culture of provocation of this magazine (as mentioned many times in the media) not only has it’s roots in but is reminiscent of the French revolution, a particularly bloody and shameful time in French history.
The better way to show solidarity over this tragedy is to show that not only has France moved beyond their own vile history from provocation to acceptance. Society needs to see that Muslims are living and still welcome to live constructive lives in mainstream society. People need to understand that regardless of the law, there is a civic responsibility in exercising your rights that may involve offending other people. Though it is unacceptable for people to kill others because of what they say, it isn’t socially acceptable to create a climate of fear and alienation among your minority populations because you have rights. One man’s right to freedom of speech does not give him the right to threaten another’s right to live in peace or safety. The responsibility is shared, otherwise it is a chaotic, vile and potentially violent society.
And that is why I say, “Juis Suis Ahmed”, not Charlie.