Je ne suis pas Charlie
When the news of the murderous attack on the staff of the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo broke it was shocking and horrifying.
But then I noticed something. The TV news channels were broadcasting sound bites from people expressing their reactions to the killings, and nearly all of them spoke of it as an attack on freedom of speech. It became a pattern. What mattered to most of the commentators was not that people had died in the attack. The important thing for everyone was not people, but an abstract idea, the idea of “freedom of speech”.
Then they showed pictures of people protesting against the murders, holding up plackards saying “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). And the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie went viral on Twitter. And I began to wonder about Charlie Hebdo, what it was, and what it stood for.
And then I saw this tweet:
I can’t say “Je Suis Charlie” because as a brown muslim immigrant woman it was my identity that was targeted in their cartoons.
If that is true, then those who are saying “Je suis Charlie” are saying that they think racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and sexism are cool. And a look at some of the tweets with the #JeSuisCharlie” hashtag confirms that impression.
I don’t think that racism, sexism and xenophobia are a justification for murder. I hope the killers are caught, put on trial and punished for the murders. But neither do I think that anger at the murders is a justification for the orgy of justification for racism, sexism and xenophobia going on under the “Je suis Charlie” label.
It is said the killers were “Muslim fundamentalists”, and that this shows the evil of religion in general and fundamentalism in particular.
There is a very good article it here: Charlie Hebdo and fundamentalism – DUNCAN REYBURN, and it is well worth reading. It confirms my belief that fundamentalism is something that arises out of modernity, and is a modernist reaction to modernity. Islamic fundamenalism is a modernist adaptation of Islam to the modern world, and attempt by Muslims to face modernity in its own terms. Christian fundamentalism does much the same thing.
But I would say that the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo killings shows that there is a clash of two funamentalisms. There is Islamic fundamentalism, and also a fundamentalism of “freedom of speech”. The almost universal response of seeing the killings as an attack on freedom of speech betrays the same attitude as that of the killers. It is an ideological clash, a clash of two religions, two fundamentalisms.
Our Constitution makes provision for Freedom of Expression as follows:
Freedom of expression
16. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes –
(a) freedom of the press and other media;
(b) freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
(c) freedom of artistic creativity; and
(d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
(2) The right in subsection (1) does not extend to –
(a) propaganda for war;
(b) incitement of imminent violence; or
(c) advocacy of hatred that is based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion, and that constitutes incitement to cause harm.
But the Freedom of Speech Fundamentalists would like to deny the limitations, and the “Je suis Charlie” fundamentalists would especially like to deny the provisions of Section 16(2)(c).
What makes this more noticable is the huge outpouring of white male indignation in this instance, but the response to other killings and violence is muted. Are these killings any worse than those of US Presidents Obama, Bush and Clinton, or British Prime Ministers Cameron and Blair over the last 15-20 years?