Je Suis Un Caricaturiste, Je Suis Charlie
Last week, on January 7th, Islamic terrorists killed 12 people at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly newspaper. The paper is notorious for its cartoons depicting and mocking Muhammad, the founder of Islam. Five of the 12 victims were cartoonists.
Cartoonists around the world responded by drawing tribute cartoons to show their support for the newspaper. “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) became synonymous with
“I support freedom of expression.”
I felt compelled to do one myself. I expanded the catch-phrase to “Je suis un caricaturiste. Je suis Charlie.” (“I am a cartoonist. I am Charlie.”).
Here’s something to keep in mind when you look at any editorial cartoon, including mine above: they’re unfair. Why? Because they’re one-sided. They make no attempt to provide a balanced view, no attempt at nuance. They’re expressing an opinion, and they’re trying to make their point as forcefully as they can. It’s simply the nature of the beast.
The point of my cartoon is simple: I support freedom of expression. I consider it essential. Does it mean I approve of every cartoon that gets published? No.
Until last week, I had never heard of Charlie Hebdo. I’ve since learned the paper delights in mocking religion. All religion. It doesn’t single out Muslims for ridicule. It regularly mocks Christians, Jews, Buddhists.
I find many of its cartoons hateful and offensive. It’s the sort of thing that gives free speech a bad name. But you don’t ban free speech because some people are rude and vulgar. And you don’t respond to rudeness with moral evil: you don’t kill people for being offensive.
Here’s a close-up detail of my cartoon. A bullet-scarred pencil as flagpole, with the
French flag at half-mast for the murder victims. An “ink bottle mosque” and star and crescent, linking the murders to Islam. Instead of spilled ink, a pool of blood.
Am I saying that all Muslims are extremists and murderers? No. Am I saying the Charlie Hebdo murders are linked to Islam? Yes. Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility and has threatened more attacks.
Islam has some very harsh things to say about “infidels” and unbelievers. Such teachings are a root cause of Islamic terrorist attacks, the most notorious being the 9/11 al-Qaeda bombings in America. I don’t know how to solve this problem, but I do know problems need to be acknowledged before they can be addressed.
I mentioned that cartoons have no room for nuance. They do not include all the facts. Here’s an important fact you may not be aware of:
On Friday, January 9th, two days after the Charlie Hebdo killings, there was another terrorist attack in Paris: a gunman killed four people at a Jewish supermarket. A Muslim shop assistant who worked at the store saved the lives of other shoppers by hiding them in a cold storage room in the basement. He then escaped from the building, and gave information to police, who stormed the building, killed the terrorist, and rescued the shoppers.
A second fact: the two terrorists who killed 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo office, also killed a Muslim police officer as they fled the building. The brother of the slain officer later said at a news conference:
“…You must not mix up extremism with Muslims… The madmen have no colour nor religion. Stop… having wars or burning mosques or burning synagogues because you are attacking people. My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims.”
Free speech is good, free speech is vital. Some people abuse free speech by saying hateful and offensive things. You do not kill people for that.
Islamic terrorism is a deadly serious problem. It is wrong to deny the problem exists. It is also wrong to condemn all Muslims for atrocities committed by Islamic madmen.
Ever found yourself conflicted, torn between free speech and censorship?
Have you been following the Charlie Hebdo story? Care to share your thoughts?
Hope you’ll leave a comment.
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