In our world, nothing should be sacred.
Author: Michaela Solomon
On Jan. 7, 2015, two terrorists opened fire in the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people. Charlie Hebdo, for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past while, is a weekly newspaper that practices the genre of traditional French satire. It also has had a reputation of upsetting Islamic groups since 2006, when the Muslim World League, Union of French Islamic Organizations, and The Grand Mosque of Paris sued them for racism. The cartoon in question at this time featured the prophet Mohamed, saying “It’s hard being loved by jerks”. In 2011 Charlie Hebdo released an issue, which identified Mohamed as editor-in-chief. On the cover, Mohamed jokes “100 lashes of the whip if you don’t die laughing!” The day before this issue took the stands in November 2011, Charlie Hebdo’s offices were firebombed. Their website was also hacked.
On Jan. 7, 2015, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi committed a “terrorist attack of the most extreme barbarity,” according to French President François Hollande. People mounted large protests and rallies across the globe in memory of the slain Charlie Hebdo employees. Disturbingly, similar protests have broken out in places with large Muslim populations, some believing that these attacks were warranted and continue to advocate for the indefinite silence of those who chose to make fun of their Prophet.
Columnist Naomi Lakritz for the Calgary Herald writes, “Whatever happened to the near-obsessive preaching about tolerance and respect for minorities with which we’ve been inundated during the past couple of decades?” Although this point is valid, Charlie Hebdo did not attack the basic human rights of any minority group. The preaching of tolerance for minority groups stemmed from decades of these minorities being oppressed around the world. There was a time in which you didn’t have a vote unless you were a white man.
Although the content printed by Charlie Hebdo could easily upset anyone, Muslim or otherwise, no human rights were violated or threatened. Satire means “a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn.” Since there are extremist groups to be found in every religion, the institution of religion as a whole can stand to be encouraged into a little improvement.
Let’s put this into other terms. We all know Bill Whatcott, that ass-hat who set up his weird 6th-grade science fair looking display in the Riddell Centre a few weeks ago. We all have our opinions of Whatcott, but we also know that it is his right to be here and to project whatever bullshit he so wishes onto us students. Did any pro-homosexual, or pro-choice person have any right in taking any sort of violent action against Whatcott? Absolutely not. But Bill, just know that as soon as a person’s right to marry who they want is gone, next to go with be your right to stand in our school with your signs. Human rights are a tricky thing, and more often than not the ones you are advocating against are closely related to the ones you are practicing. Terrorists want to silence free expression and freedom of the press? Well they could be saying goodbye to their freedom to practice the religion of their choice; see George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Charlie Hebdo legally has every right to express their thoughts of whatever they want, through whatever medium they so choose. Freedom of expression is a real and practiced basic human right in many countries, and 12 people being killed is a great deal more serious than some terrorist groups getting hurt over a cartoon mocking their Prophet. I am an employee at a daycare in Regina. I tell four-year-old children every day that when someone says something we don’t like, we respond with calm words and not our fists. Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that we live in a world where our children understand this fact better than the leader of the Catholic Church.