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.