Opinion: Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie

If you were to look up the phrase “Je Suis Charlie,” I am Charlie in French, you would find all types of products supporting the cause such as t-shirts, pins and caps. As with most political trends, many people don’t even really understand the true meaning behind the phrase – they just like the idea of supporting a cause, which is understandable. After all, who doesn’t like solidarity?


When it’s blind solidarity, I don’t. I do not support the market that has sprung up from this tragedy, from this idea that the freedom of speech in France is being limited, and as a result, we have to fight for that right. There is a limit to just how far your freedom of speech extends. There is a fine line between hate speech and satire, and it could easily be argued that Charlie Hebdo crossed the line with their comics that poked fun at the Prophet Mohammed. Freedom of speech is a constitutional right in France. But by not allowing French media to publish anything anti-semitic, France has created a bit of a double standard- one that makes them seem a bit hypocritical.

In 2009, 80-year-old Maurice Sinet, a political cartoonist who was with Charlie Hebdo for 20 years, was fired for publishing anti-semitic cartoons. No one said a word. No one tried to sell “Je Suis Sinet” products. Sinet ridiculed Israel, and he was shut down. Based on this, it can be seen that freedom of speech in France was already limited. People already had to censor themselves from publishing things about certain political views. How does it make sense, then, to fight for the freedom of speech to make fun of Islam? Either fight for the right for complete freedom of speech, or don’t bother trying to be a part of the cause at all.

People are already prejudiced towards Muslims because of the countless terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists such as ISIS, along with the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks which still hits home for many Americans. This makes it easy for them to feel like the right to ridicule Muslims should be fought for – and to be fair, satire is completely okay. Even Muslims make fun of their own kind. So if people want to fight for a magazine’s right to make fun of everyone, they can go right on ahead. But it isn’t fair to target specific groups, such as Muslims and Arabs, while not being allowed to target others, such as Jews and other religious or cultural groups.

Speaking from a Muslim’s point of view, the reaction of the terrorists to go on and murder 12 innocent people in order to avenge the Prophet Mohammed was way out of line. The Prophet himself used to be taunted and tortured all the time, and he never lay a hand on anyone; instead he went for the peaceful approach.

There’s a story that my father always tells me; the Prophet was making a voyage, and people were pelting him with stones and rocks. The angel of the mountains himself descended upon him and asked if he wanted to close the mountains in on all the villagers, and the Prophet simply replied, “Let them be.” And then he walked away, letting the villagers continue to stone him.

Because of this, you cannot possibly call the violent terrorists Muslims, when values of peace and tolerance are so embedded into the Muslim religion. They are only Muslims by name; they do not actually understand or practice the message of the Prophet Mohammed. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people do not know or realize this and are more than willing to just assume all Muslims share the same mindset as those of the terrorists, when this is not the case.

Additionally, as a Muslim it is upsetting to always see the majority of the Muslim population apologizing for any terrorist attack that occurs, saying they “condemn it.” Obviously if you have morals, you would be disapproving of the unjust murder of innocent people. The attack was not right, and it was definitely a tragedy not only for the families of victims, but also for their friends and any witnesses.

But the entire body of Muslims (actual practicing Muslims who understand the Prophet’s message) should not feel the need to apologize for any unfortunate event that takes place at the hands of someone claiming they are Muslim, just to prove themselves as moralistic and peaceful people. But it should already be a given that not all Muslims are insane and homicidal.  No one should have to prove anything. When the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting occurred, no one mentioned how they “condemned the shooting.” No one felt the need to, because an entire group of people was not being attacked by the media. Only Adam Lanza, the murderer who was actually responsible for the shooting, was attacked by the media.

Some people feel that if they don’t side with “Je Suis Charlie,” they are supporting the radical Islamists. However, this is not the case. In fact, it is even more damaging to claim that you are Charlie, because it creates an “us against them” state of mind; with “us” being the liberal progressive people and “them” being the Muslim extremists. This is dangerous, for it furthers many people’s Islamophobia.

To conclude, Je ne suis pas Charlie. I am not Charlie, or Ahmed, or any other person that people are referring to themselves as. I am myself. I believe that the terrorist attack in France was tragic and completely uncalled for. However, instead of taking the attack as an initiative to fight for “freedom of speech,” realize that the system is flawed, and try to do something about it. Make sure magazines and other forms of media are allowed to publish satire making fun of whoever they want – but realize that there is a difference between free speech and harmless cartoons, and hate speech and derogatory content made specifically to offend people. Hate speech is not free speech.