Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie // I am not Charlie

Je suis triste. I am sad, disheartened, and angered that sick people repeatedly employ the name of Islam to justify their horrific attacks, which are tailored to suit their own agenda and not to embody the tranquil principles of Islam.

In light of the recent attack in Paris, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the families who lost loved ones for unjustified purposes. I would like to articulate my profound apologies for the millions of Muslims living in Western countries who will suffer from extreme Islamophobia and racism that’s subtly justified by the mainstream media. I would like to extend my sincerest remorse to the thousands of innocent civilians living in Muslim countries, who were robbed of an opportunity to live, and who will have their lives stolen from them, under the disguise of the “war on terror” that can so easily be translated to the “war on Islam.”

Charlie Hedbo, a French satirical magazine, frequently illustrated disrespectful and offensive depictions of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Blacks, and other minority groups. The newspaper artfully masked hate and racism with freedom of expression to permit itself to rightfully and continuously mock and attack minorities.

Joe Sacco, a cartoonist, raises an important question in his recent cartoon on the attack; he asks, where is the line drawn between freedom of expression and freedom to express hate?

In 2009, Maurice Sinet, a former columnist for Charlie Hedbo, was fired for refusing to apologize for his anti-Semitic illustration. This raises critical questions, why is it justified for the magazine to repeatedly portray anti-Islamic depictions? Does Charlie Hedbo truly believe in freedom of speech or is it customized to accommodate a selected few?

Murdering journalists is not moral nor ethical, but neither is disparaging an already marginalized culture in French society.

Beyond the prejudices of Charlie Hedbo, French society is perhaps one of the most hostile towards minorities and immigrants. The Washington Post reported in 2008 that approximately 60 to 70 percent of inmates in France are Muslim, despite Muslims only making up about 12% of the country’s population. This statistic should be taken into serious consideration when examining the current situation in France.

Its also imperative to note that France was the first European country to ban the wear of the burqa, Islamic attire that covers the entire body leaving only the eyes revealed. The ban clearly violates French Muslims’ basic right to freedom of religion by restricting Muslim women to not wear what they voluntarily choose to wear. In 2013, a Muslim woman suffered a miscarriage after two men attacked her for wearing a burqa. Her attackers ripped her clothes off and cut her hair. In 2014, a European Human Rights Court upheld France’s ban on the burqa and deemed it legal after a Muslim woman challenged the law, further justifying France’s overt racism that’s etched in its political policies.

The Independent featured an article in 2012 that discussed how Islamophobia is a norm in French media, after a popular French newspaper ran the headline: “Brazen Islam…in school cafeterias, hospitals, and swimming pools.” The Interior Minister of France at the time, Manuel Valls, was asked on a popular talk show about the headline; he replied, “It expresses a reality. What I find shocking, and I will always find shocking, is a fully-veiled woman.”

Unfortunately, this discrimination will only be heightened after the recent attack. Muslims in France are already experiencing hateful retributions for attacks they did not commit and acts that do not exemplify the true ideals of Islam.

In addition to Muslim discrimination in France, Romanian immigrants are also victims of prevalent French hostility. In 2010, The New York Times reported that over 8,000 Romanians were expelled from France.

This overt racism also extends to French Blacks. In 2013, the Justice Minister of France, Christiane Taubira, was likened to a monkey for the color of her skin by a candidate for the right-wing National Front party. Its incredibly troubling that a woman, who holds such a high office, is ridiculed for her race; one can only imagine what average French Blacks suffer.

In an article for Slate, Justin Peters asserts that this kind of racism and ostracization of minorities and religious groups is ubiquitous and common within French society. Peters explains that Charlie Hedbo’s illustrations only embody French nationalist sentiments and define “Frenchness” exclusively to secular natives.

Given the facts stated above, its critical to understand France’s political policies and social norms before instantly labeling Islam a barbaric and savage religion that strives to callously persecute non-Muslims. Understanding these facts provide an essential context for which one can examine the recent attack in Paris.

It should also be noted that there are several verses in the Quran that explicitly denounce murder. Moreover, there are over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world; the isolated acts of a few should not collectively represent the entire body of Muslims. The KKK and Westboro Baptist Church do not represent all Christians, and not all Germans were Nazis, the same standard should be applied to Muslims.

Je suis triste. I am sad, disheartened, and angry because the world chooses to selectively see a sliver of the truth. Just like the world united to condemn the gruesome attack on Charlie Hedbo, it should also collectively denounce explicit racism and hate.

DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT support or condone the Charlie Hedbo attacks, or any deadly attacks. Also, not all French people are racist.

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16 comments

  1. “Charlie Hedbo, a French satirical magazine, frequently illustrated disrespectful depictions of Muslims, Jews, Christians, and Blacks. The newspaper artfully masked hate and racism with freedom of expression to permit itself to rightfully and continuously mock and attack minorities.”

    Fuck you, every group was made fun of equally, he did not give any race or religion any more attention than another. You may get the idea that muslims are targeted because the comics featuring content based on them gets more of the medias attention. You have only one point of view, a butthurt teenager from Muslim descent. You need to realize that no group gets to be immune to satirical material, no religion, no race, no nation. Charlie was not a racist that spread hate about anyone, he was a comedian like any other, who has the right to make jokes about whomever he likes without being considered racist to a certain degree.

  2. Reblogged this on The Maroon Colony and commented:
    This was a very well written blog article that says more of what I think is the focus in the aftermath of this horrific event, as well as remembering that at the center of this, 12 people lost their lives. It’s possible to mourn the unnecessary deaths of the people behind Charlie Hebdo while still acknowledging that it’s racist. In fact, it’s an important and necessary task.

  3. Im french and just walked today in Paris aside 4 millions french people from every religion and every countries in the world. Do you think all these people, christians, muslims, atheist, forreigners, black, white, asian people woulld gather in memory of a racist newspaper ? Seriously?

    Charlie Hebdo mocked racism and any kind of discrimination using irony and caricature. They always made fun of everything that make people fight each other. Like religion, politics, money, corruption… They were humanists and pacifists, writing for the least racist newspaper you could ever find. You need to learn about those drawings, and the political context they were created in. You’ll realize Charlie Hebdo always stood for freedom, peace, and against racism. Get educated. And please, edit this article.

    The world doesn’t need more intolerance spreading, especially when its just a bunch of lies. We are French. Against racism. We walked today to spread a peace message. The same message this newspaper was preading. Look this up about it, and please, do the necessary to avoid untrue things to be read. This is the worst insult you could do to the pacifists these drawers were.

  4. Nice post, I reblogged it.

    You touched a key point. Muslims condemn and do not support such actions. But the world cannot expect us to stay quiet over the blasphemous caricatures of religious personalities. Such actions undoubtedly make us uncomfortable and angry. While majority of Muslims express their anger by protesting peacefully and through other non-violent and democratic means, some radicalised and fanatic people become violent. It has to be clear that Islam doesn`t allow one to take law into their own hands.

    This is not about Islam or any other religion. This is about being sensible and civilised. Why intentionally make caricatures to anger/upset people under the pretext of freedom of expression. If we call ourself civilised, we must learn to be sensitive towards the beliefs and feelings of others. It is a commonly held notion that freedom/liberty is not absolute, as absolute freedom would result in anarchy.

    I am not saying that publishing of blasphemous caricatures would result in violent actions. No they should not. But there are more or less 1.7 billion Muslims and we can`t control everyone. Extremist and radicalised elements will be triggered by such acts. They are always looking for a reason to wreak havoc. This is not just the case with Muslims, have we forgotten that Anders Breivik called himself a Crusader and a proud Christian for killing all those innocent kids in Utoeya,Norway. Have we forgotten that Israel murdered around 3000 people in 2014 summer offensive, most of them were children and women. No one calls Israel as a terrorist because they can manage media perception.

    Things are not black and white. If terrorists used the name of Islam to kill, then Ahmed Murabet, the Muslim police chief who led the operation against Kouachi brothers and the Kosher shop hero also used the name of Islam to save innocent lives.

  5. Hi Halima, I just saw your comment under mine over at Maroon Colony, and wasn’t sure whether you were directing me or Maroon to check out your essay. In any case, it is eloquent, and I fully agree. I also see, from some comments here and on Maroon that white privilege is alive and well in France, as well as the United States. As you know, whether we are talking about racist jokes and depictions, here or there, a common enough defensive response from many white (liberal) people is “oh, lighten up, it’s only a joke” or “don’t be so pc!” Same with sexist humor. Then come the calls for “freedom of speech” or of “reverse discrimination.” I was astounded that some resorted to “you don’t understand French culture.” I’ve heard the exact same cultural relativist argument made in defense of clitorectomies. I’d imagine our French liberals would be the first to condemn that misogynistic practice. Or the comment, “you don’t understand the context.” That’s just disingenuous and hypocritical. Because those commentators blithely ignore the real context, pretending there’s an even playing field for the deployment of their abstract “freedom of expression.” They cover their ears and eyes and stick their tongues out when it comes to the oppressive social, institutional relations that represent CH’s real playing field. That’s why I think it is totally appropriate for oppressed communities to demand retraction of racist or sexist remarks or depictions in the media or by those with social power and privilege. Do you recall the incident last Thanksgiving where an Indiana paper was forced by community outrage to retract the racist depiction of an undocumented Latino crashing a Thanksgiving dinner? Social movements confront not only the more egregious institutional aspects of oppression, but cultural expressions, as well. Why is it no longer acceptable to use the “N” word in public discourse i the U.S.? Along with institutional racism, the Civil Rights and Black Liberation movements called out, challenged and altered prevailing culture. Of course in our capitalist societies, these battles will go back and forth. Until the day we win, or we render our planet’s environment unlivable! In any case, keep telling truth to power!

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