The recent merciless massacre at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has sparked a global narrative of a range of topics, including free speech, religious stratification and international dialogue on acceptance. A particular thread of the narrative that calls for attention is the relationship between those who committed the heinous crime and Islam. Let it be clear that neither Islam nor Muslims should be held responsible for the actions of a villainous few.
Media mogul Rupert Murdoch stated that all Muslims should be held accountable for the tragedy in Paris, tweeting, “Maybe most Moslems [sic] peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible.” Murdoch’s methodology behind this statement is illogical. Blaming Muslims for violence disrespects religion. Those who stepped into Charlie Hebdo and killed staffers were not associated with any religion. No religion condones the killing of innocent, unarmed civilians. Instead, the cowards who ended the lives of those who spoke out, acted on their own accord. Furthermore, to say that Islam should be held accountable is to say adherents are the cause of crime; the projection of guilt on a population based on the deeds of a few denies Muslims fundamental agency. As author J.K. Rowling astutely replied to Murdoch, “I was born Christian. If that makes Rupert Murdoch my responsibility, I’ll auto-excommunicate.” Actor Aziz Ansari also shared sentiments, tweeting, “Are you responsible for the evil sh-t all Christians do or just the insane amount of evil you yourself contribute to?”
The tragedy at Charlie Hebdo underscores the risk of adverse attitudes and actions toward those who are different, or as literary theorist Edward Said would say, “the other.” The two suspects, now deceased, should not be categorized with Islam. The guard on duty that day who was also tragically killed was a practicing Muslim. The attackers clearly did not discriminate against their targets, just anybody associated with Charlie Hebdo. Yet, despite all that, there still exists a threat of violence toward Muslims as retaliation for what transpired. No one condones the massacre. Muslims not only in France but across the world would stand against such atrocities.
Many, particularly those in American media, have characterized and described Charlie Hebdo as a “satirical magazine.” Charlie Hebdo is satire, but make no mistake; it is not Jon Stewart. Charlie Hebdo is revered for its unfiltered, honest take on subjects and issues but is, at times, extremely racist and prejudiced. It utilizes stereotypes, slurs and derogatory epithets to make points. Though one might disagree with what the magazine says, they cannot disagree with its right to say it. What Charlie Hebdo publishes and prints is a fundamental right that must be kept, despite its often divisive nature.
The “Je Suis Charlie” campaign, which is French for “I am Charlie,” has taken the world by storm. Millions have poured out to streets across the globe in support of Charlie Hebdo, and rightfully so. It is important, however, to understand that declaring “Je Suis Charlie” does not mean one necessarily supports all the viewpoints expressed by the magazine, but you support the fundamental right for the publication to speak out, print and voice their opinion without repercussion. Simply put, Charlie Hebdo is comedy, and as Jon Stewart noted after the attacks, comedy shouldn’t be “an act of courage.” It is meant to entertain and amid all the laughter, the satire makes a point. Whether you agree with the humor is a discussion in and of itself, but the idea being made is not to make a scapegoat out of the those you may not know. Those who hold views similar to Rupert Murdoch are ignorant of Islam and lack the subtlety that encompass acceptance and understanding. It is dangerous to make Islam a scapegoat, and we should open the discourse in society on how those who differ from us are viewed and treated.
Je Suis Charlie.
Athanasius Georgy is a sophomore majoring in economics. His column, “On the World Stage” runs Thursdays.