I’m not Charlie, #JeSuisAisha

Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh: #CharlieHebdo gunmen "shot Islam, not defended it"

Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Sabaaneh: #CharlieHebdo gunmen “shot Islam, not defended it”

Before I continue writing what may be seen as an ‘unpopular opinion’, I think it’s important to clarify a few things:

  • The actions of the murderers in Paris aren’t justified by any means,
  • I condemn violence in the name of Islam,
  • And as a journalist, I strive to support freedom of speech. 

This post doesn’t aim to discuss the attack itself because I don’t want to detail the build-up to and after the attack. I simply want everyone reading this to take a few minutes today to get a clearer, well-rounded opinion on Charlie Hebdo. The attackers wanted to create debates around freedom of speech and instill fear within newsrooms. 

Since the Paris attack, I’ve seen some disturbing images on my Twitter timeline, most of them are racist and Islamophobic – just as Charlie Hebdo is. In a country with a huge Muslim population, France also has an Islamophobia problem encouraged by publications such as Charlie Hebdo.

With such a tragic, cruel act of murder taking place, I see many people defending the publication by sharing racist, Islamophobic and xenophobic cartoons. Are you supporting the message behind the cartoon or are you trying to fight for freedom of speech? Personally, it’s really upsetting to see how many people are happy to share images I’m uncomfortable seeing because they feel it’s showing respect towards the victims. 

I believe in freedom of speech but shouldn’t it be applied equally? A French comedian, Dieudonne, was repeatedly fined and had shows banned for his ‘anti-Semitism’ hate speech, where was his right for freedom of speech? In a country already struggling with Islamophobia, I don’t support Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons. Freedom of speech shouldn’t mean freedom to insult. It only spurred further hate towards Muslims because while #JeSuisCharlie was trending worldwide yesterday, so was #KillAllMuslims. Why do we pick and choose when freedom of speech has the right to offend or not? Dieudonne offended Jews and his shows were banned, if he had used Islamophobia disguised as jokes, would it have been okay? While people point out that Charlie Hebdo also criticised Christianity and other religions, it was never equal. Muslims in France are an already polarised group so demeaning cartoons about the Prophet were far more insulting. 

So all I ask is before people jump to defend specific cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, ask yourself, are you really happy to support a racist publication? Before you declare #JeSuisCharlie, don’t ignore that the publication exerted white male privilege while posting anti-Islamic, racist, sexist and xenophobic material. 

I do not support extremists nor do I support a racist institution and it’s important to identify both. There’s a difference between showing solidarity against extremism and showing solidarity with a racist publication. 

I don’t want this to take the attention away from the real issue – people were murdered where they felt safe. My heart goes out to the victims (the first of whom was Muslim). They didn’t deserve to die, especially in the name of Islam. Islam didn’t need defending through murder and we don’t condone violence. Ahmed Merabet, a police officer, who was killed in this attack was also Muslim – he might not have agreed with the publication but he died defending their right to publish. Yet this attack will fuel anti-Islamic violence, mosques have already been targeted and that’s my biggest fear for Muslims living in Europe – an already marginalised group. 


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