What happened at the offices and surroundings of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on January 7 in Paris was cold-blooded murder. This tragic incident unleashed a somewhat unprecedented reaction on world news and social media, or maybe it’s just the news junkie and social media addict in me that felt bombarded by all of it at once. Some have been targeted reactions and commentaries, while others were ‘all over the place,’ which goes to show the mixed feelings that were triggered.
Je suis, Je ne suis pas…
There was/is “Je suis Charlie,” (“I am Charlie”) the slogan in solidarity with the newspaper and “Je suis Ahmed” (“I am Ahmed”) in solidarity with one of the police officers (who happened to be Muslim) who was shot and killed on camera as the two gunmen went on their killing rampage. There was also “Je suis Juif” (“I am Jewish”) in solidarity with French Jews, following the attack against the kosher store where a hostage taking took place two days later, but that really didn’t pick up. And let’s not forget the local “Je suis Beyrouth” (“I am Beirut”) the point of which I still fail to understand, the timing completely wrong, but they get a point for solidarity with Charlie Hebdo if that’s what they were after.
There were those who decided to fast forward the debate, stating that even though they stood in solidarity and condemned what had happened, they “were not Charlie” (“Je ne suis pas Charlie”) because they either disliked the paper to begin with or knew they couldn’t be Charlie anyway. Not everybody has the guts (or the pure recklessness, depending how you look at it) to do what Charlie Hebdo did and will probably continue doing, so why claim we are them when we’re not, some said.
The cynics will be cynics, complaining about the lack of a similar global outcry following similar, if not worse attacks, and hence discrediting the current reactions. Although there is much truth to that, there’s probably understandable reasons (not that I’d agree with them) for why other incidents haven’t been equally condemned. I’d be more than willing to discuss separate incidents and the respective reactions to them in the comment section below.
But what I would like is point to some other front-news worthy stories eclipsed by the Charlie Hebdo killings such as: the unconfirmed execution of Tunisian journalist Soufiane Chourabi and colleague Nadhir Guetari by ISIS in Libya, enforcing the first round of public floggings on Saudi blogger Raif Badawi (accused of “insulting Islam”) in Saudi Arabia, and of course there is Nigeria. It has been reported that Islamic militant group Boko Haram may have committed a deadly massacre whereby around 2000 people are believed to have been killed.
You can “I am” or “I am not” all you want, but in a couple of days time, everybody will forget and get back to who they truly “are.” The single common denominator between Charlie Hebdo, the news you missed this week and most other horrific news making the headlines in the past months is that all this is being done in the name of Islam or more precisely Islamic extremism.
This is extremism
Is this about or does it reflect Islam? No, how many times do we need to say it. It is Islamic extremism, which isn’t the same as Islam. Extremism is something common in all cultures and religions (Christian, Jewish, Hindu, etc…) and it so happens that now the time has come for Islamic extremism to make the headlines. So please, spare me the criticism of being racist and go read some history and/or current news.
What happened at Charlie Hebdo isn’t about freedom of expression, it’s about pure, simple and blind extremism, which leads to murder, intolerance and hatred. This has been an era of Islamic extremism and this is where the debate should start and be at right now.
This is why it’s probably time to eliminate extremism. Most of you reading this probably don’t have the time nor the right tools to do that, but your governments do, if they only had the will to do so. And these are the questions that should be asked: why and how have these groups become so extreme, who is funding and supporting them (be it Western or Arab sources) and how have they come to exert so much influence? More importantly, did those responsible for their rise truly believe they could be controlled and their work confined to face the enemy they were intended to counter (Arab dictators in the case of ISIS or their cousins) and their violence not spread elsewhere? In the case of France today, what has it done, allowing its citizens to go fight in the Arab world and what will it do when they all go back home, as some of them already have? Where and how did they fail their own citizens to the point were French kill other French in cold-blood, in the name of Islam, as what happened in Charlie Hebdo?
It is only after answering all these questions that we will begin seeing some change and freedom of expression will fall back into place on its own. Well, until some other form of extremism pops its ugly head somewhere, that is.