Sunday, 18 January 2015

Pourquoi Charlie?

Mirza Adrian NP
14 January 2015

On Wednesday 11 January 2015, two gunmen armed with assault rifles stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris. They shot dead 11 people including the editor and some cartoonists. While escaping, they also shot dead one police officer. In total, 12 people are killed in the attacks and 11 people are wounded. The gunners were taking revenge on Charlie’s frequent depiction of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) on their magazine cover which is an act of blasphemy for the Moslems since Islam has a strong tradition of aniconism, and it is considered highly blasphemous in most Islamic traditions to make a picture of Muhammad. This, compounded with a sense that the cartoons insulted Muhammad and Islam, offended the attackers and their supporters.

As a response, the world (or at least Europe and America) stood up in vigil for the dead and condemn the attack to Charlie Hebdo as an attack on freedom of speech. In the internet, the phrase Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) became widespread as a show of support with those who were killed at the Charlie Hebdo shooting, and by extension, a show of support to freedom of speech and resistance to armed threats. Some journalists and cartoonists embraced the expression as a rallying cry for the freedom of self-expression and attached figurative drawings of the might of pens and pencils over guns. Charlie Hebdo itself ‘retaliates’ by publishing another cover of the magazine with Mohammad holding the sign “Je Suis Charlie” and print 1 million copies showing that they are undeterred by the attacks and will continue to act upon their freedom of speech and expression, even though some people might consider their action as blasphemy.

Many things could be learned from this event to prevent other shootings in the future and history will surely analyze this event as an example of turbulence in the 21st century – along with other horrendous massacres that had happened so far. For me, the event and its aftermath brought two important questions: (1) what is the limit of freedom of speech and expression? and (2) How should freedom of speech and expression conducted in a globalized world? In this writing, I will try to answer both questions and try to reach a conclusion regarding this event and its contribution to the discussion of freedom. Readers may note that, because of my limited understanding on the subject, this writing will contains mistakes and I hope for the readers to correct my mistakes and start a discussion.