French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which came to the world’s attention when it was hit by Muslim terrorists in 2015 as 12 people of their editorial board were gunned down in their Paris offices, has just published its response to the Barcelona attacks.
It is widely expected that the cartoon cover, showing a white van driving over bloody bodies and carrying the inscription ‘Islam, religion of peace … forever’ will cause frictions and protests in many Muslim countries. Some have even said it risks fanning Islamophobia even further.
Once again, Europe has seen its fair share of terrorist attacks this year, with a bombing in Manchester and, several knife attacks and vans being driven into pedestrian streets in Stockholm, London and Barcelona. The list can be added to the sad one of 2015 and 2016. Still, no politician dares to mention the clear link between Islamic terrorism and these attacks.
The current editor of Charlie Hebdo, Mr. Laurent "Riss" Sourisseau, however, has no such problem. He explained their choice in an editorial, saying that it seemed to him as if French experts and policymakers were avoiding hard questions out of concern to offend for moderate, law-abiding Muslims. "The debates and questions about the role of religion, and in particular the role of Islam, in these attacks have completely disappeared,"
Response editorials in Al Jazeera and mentions on Lebanese tv today claiming that this cartoon offends the 1.5 billion practitioners of a worldwide religion will certainly not help to further incite an already tense situation. Critics pointed out that the cartoon was violent, forgetting to mention that the act which it depicts is the main perpetrator of violence.
What many seem to overlook is that Charlie Hebdo is simply practicing that which is deeply embedded in the French constitution, namely defending their freedom of speech. After the 2015 massacre the slogan Je Suis Charlie was adopted by worldwide supporters of freedom of speech and freedom of the press and trended for weeks in a gesture of support for the magazine.
To state "Je Suis Charlie" means that if you refute terrorism as a whole, you are not just condemning it, but you’re defending freedom of speech and expression. It is not because we don’t agree with something, that it is ok to censor it.