Like 9/11, 7/7 and so many other dates now seared into our collective memories, 7/1 is another that will forever be associated with the deadly vengeance of Islamic extremists.
With the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket shootings in Paris followed by news of the horrifying massacres by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the public flogging of activist Raif Badawi in Saudi Arabia it has been a depressing and disturbing week.
My emotions have run the gamut from shock and outrage to fear and defiance. It has made me question what that freedom really means to me and what my values and beliefs are. As a former journalist, I have had conflicted feelings about freedom of speech and the role of the media. Like many others I was quick to change my Facebook profile to “Je Suis Charlie” in solidarity. However after the last few days of debating, reading and watching the deluge of coverage, I’m inclined to change it to a more nuanced “avec Charlie”.
Here are ten things I’ve learned this past week:
- Charlie Hebdo is a marginal satirical magazine in Paris that now has a worldwide circulation of more than a million.
- Its writers and cartoonists were brave and did not deserve to die.
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali is even braver.
- Publishing a caricature of Mohammed on the front cover of Charlie Hebdo’s post-attack issue was insensitive and needlessly provocative.
- Poking fun at Muslims is considered freedom of speech. Satire of Israel is anti-Semitic.
- On October 17, 1961, Paris police killed an estimated 200 Algerians protesting against the Algerian War and dumped their bodies in the Seine.
- Around 40 percent of Muslims in European countries want to live under sharia law with its stoning of adulterers and execution of those who renounce the faith. The figure is reportedly higher among 16-24 year olds, many of whom want Western countries to become Islamic states.
- We may aspire to the oft-quoted ideal, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”[Voltaire did not say it, by the way], but we can no longer afford to tolerate intolerance.
- A photo op in Paris is worth more to world leaders than one in Baga, Nigeria.
- If there is such a thing as Satan, Boko Haram are his foot soldiers.
And finally one thing I didn’t.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, how many lives for a cartoon?