Boko Haram, Charlie Hebdo, Cherif Kouachi, France, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Speech, Homophobia, Hypocrisy, Islamists, Je suis Charlie, Jihadists, Journalism, KKK, Multiculturalism, Neo-Nazi, Nigeria, Paris, Racism, Said Kouachi, Terrorist Attack, The Interview (2014)
Okay. So my French is horrible. But nothing should be lost in translation. I’m not for Islamists and other similarly motivated people murdering in the name of a religion. I’m not for the suppression of free speech, or free expression, or religion, or atheism. Like millions all over the world, I find it unacceptable that anyone would murder a group of Charlie Hebdo staffers and editors because of their work.
I also think that Charlie Hebdo’s work is only a notch or two above disgusting, meaning it could easily be the organ for the KKK, a neo-Nazi party or some other organization whose motto is hatred and intolerance. It’s not just about the prophet Muhammad. They’ve portrayed African politicians as monkeys, being gay as deviant, and immigrants as the scourge of Europe. All in the name of satire. Except that irreverence and satire is actually supposed to be funny, not racist, anti-immigrant, anti-religion and homophobic. Well, at least the French arm of the Neo-Nazi Party’s laughing every week!
In a country of well over 60 million people, Charlie Hebdo‘s average weekly circulation was 160,000, on par with some newspapers in central Pennsylvania. Yet everyone who’s anyone has run to support them with “Je suis Charlie,” as if this is the equivalent of #BlackLivesMatter or something. The folks at Charlie Hebdo didn’t deserve murder, but they also shouldn’t be supported as if they were doing groundbreaking investigative journalism either.
So no, I am NOT Charlie. I am not Charlie because there have been close to a dozen other bombings and attacks all over the globe in the past week, in places like Pakistan and Syria and Nigeria, in Texas and Colorado and other places. I am not Charlie because I refuse to elevate the lives of a few French racists over the wholesale slaughtering of 2,000 in Nigeria by Boko Haram.
I am NOT Charlie because no Muslim should ever have to apologize for being Muslim, just because a small group of radicalized fanatics took their religion’s name in vain. I am NOT Charlie because I understand that anyone can commit a violent and senseless act based on any religion, any belief, and any philosophy. Including killing others based on the idea that there is no God at all.
I cannot nor will not be Charlie because while I believe in free speech and expression, I also believe in embracing a multicultural world. Something that these cretins — Cherif and Said Kouachi and the staff at Charlie Hebdo — obviously didn’t believe in at all. I cannot be Charlie because that would require me to live in a world without context, without understanding that there is a global economic and political context to radical Jihadists. A context that is as much about economic inequality, deliberate religious misinformation, and the political dominance of Europe and the US, that last one going back at least two centuries.
I refuse to be Charlie because though I believe we should defend even the most vile and incompetent forms of speech and expression, I also believe that we need to challenge such expression at every turn. I am NOT Charlie because I’m also NOT The Interview. I am also not a stereotype or a monkey or a caricature or someone whom Whites in Hollywood or White Frenchmen running a rag can easily define and pigeonhole. I am not Charlie because I’m not a commodity that can be bought or sold or taken advantage of. I am NOT Charlie because I refuse to support the idea that you should run three million copies of your weekly to take advantage of the deaths of colleagues because the eyes of the European world are on you this week.
I am NOT Charlie. I AM a man, though, who sees all sides of what many have all but oversimplified as a war between good and evil.