#JeSuisCharlie – was it worth the laughs?

Words are powerful weapons that can crumble nations and incite change.

Words can also be worth the highest price: life.

Yesterday the world stood in united shock at the barbaric incident that took place in France (link)

At about 11 a.m. on Wednesday, gunmen in black ski masks with Kalashnikov weapons stormed the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo and opened fire on an editorial meeting before fleeing in one car and then hijacking and escaping in another. By the time it was over, at least 12 people were killed and another 11 injured—four critically—in the deadliest terror attack in France in recent memory.

A cowardly, precise and targeted attack, whereby the assailants knew how to get to where they wanted to go, and had a hit list prepared in advance.

The question that will be on everyone’s mind is, was it worth it?

It is no surprise that this attack comes as a result of the paper’s risqué demeanor, last month, for example, the newspaper printed a depiction of the Virgin Mary that showed her spread eagle giving birth to Jesus. In 2009, following the death of Michael Jackson, the newspaper’s cover featured a cartoon white skeleton of Jackson with the headline, “Michael Jackson Finally White.” And in September 2012, the paper printed a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

It is very easy to sit at our desks and decry the assault on freedom of speech. It is very easy as we are not affected, we did not lose a loved one to this terrorist attack.

There is a saying that goes, “do not poke a sleeping bear”. You have every right to, for it is a bear and you wish to poke it. You are advised not to, not out of fear of the bear itself, but for fear of what the bear could do.

Everyone will scream, “what are you talking about?”, “we cannot let them win”, “they cannot control us by fear”. And they would be right. Just last month we witnessed the targeted attacks on Sony as a result of their decision to screen the movie The Interview, which North Korea took strong offence to.

However, in no logic is the loss of information, no matter how sensitive, equivalent to the loss of life.

Freedom of speech is a an absolute right. Freedom however, has its limits. Following the teachings of the Prophet, we are taught that your freedom ends when it imposes upon the freedom of others; for example, you are on a ship with 10 others, you demarcate territories for each and everyone is king of their area, free to do as they wish, however should one choose to drill a hole in their area that would ultimately lead to the ship sinking, that is not allowed, for their freedom to do as they please ended when it transgressed on the freedom of others.

To exercise freedom of speech in an attempt to besmirch someone’s beliefs is NOT considered freedom of speech. Freedom to hate is a more fitting title.

Muslims are no strangers to freedom of speech, a trait denied to many for so long, and yet the response is just the same. Take the satirical Comedian, Bassem Youssef  for example, he has received countless threats as a result of his show and yet he still kept going for as long as he could; he continues to receive threats (even judicial) to this day, long after his show went off the air.

So long as we live in a world where people’s response to an incident is not in the magnitude of the incident itself, there will always be violence.

I guess in a way that is the very response to the idea put forward in this article, no matter what you do, you cannot refrain from offending someone. You can take steps around the sleeping bear, but ultimately cooking a meal in front of it is bound to stir it from slumber.

Our hearts go out to the families of the victims, may the find solace and comfort in the thought that their loved ones lost their lives over a cartoon drawing.


August 2011 ( View complete archive page )

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