‘Je ne suis pas’ Charlie

by Courtney White, Contributor

Twelve lives were tragically lost on Jan. 7, when two masked gunmen entered the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, the now infamous French satirical magazine. However, this tragedy is no reason to support the social media movement that imploded soon after: “JesuisCharlie.”

The hashtag, which was tweeted more than 3.4 million times within the first 24 hours of the attack and is now one of the most popular hashtags in history, was originally intended to show support for freedom of speech. Few realize the hashtag has ended up being misused for a variety of purposes. So, before you purchase your “Je suis Charlie” Urban Outfitters T-shirt, there are a few points to consider.

Supporters of “Je suis Charlie” are not exclusively supporting freedom speech, but they are also supporting the magazine that depicts incredibly offensive, racist and vulgar images. ”

Supporters of “Je suis Charlie” are not exclusively supporting freedom speech, but they are also supporting the magazine that depicts incredibly offensive, racist and vulgar images. While it is all supposedly in the name of secular satire, this isn’t how western countries should be responding to a heinous act of terrorism. As a result, Americans and western Europeans, who support the movement, end up financially supporting magazines that attempt to alienate an entire culture.

I am not contesting the right to free speech, I am merely advocating for a more wholesome and considerate way to express this right – especially during a sensitive time concerning foreign relations with Islamic countries.

Khaleel Mohammed, San Diego State associate professor who specializes in Muslim law and extremist movements, shed some light on what “Je suis Charlie” means when it’s tweeted. Mohammed said the degree to which the attack was planned and the reaction that was intended in western countries is being overlooked. Both France and the United States responded in a similar fashion, which has further alienated the Muslim population as a whole.

“These militants want (western societies) to respond, which is to make Muslims in general feel as if they are the ‘other’,” Mohammed said.

“Je suis Charlie” is seemingly key evidence of this intentionally provoked response. The movement has become a way for western countries to come together and support freedom of speech, secularism and the absence of Islam. The Muslim community hasn’t publically been welcome to participate in this movement.

This exclusion is even more evident by the fact that many Twitter users have been mentioning “JesuisCharlie,” while also hashtagging “KillallMuslims.” The fact that any population of people have united over the use of these  hashtags only further alienates the innocent people who have done nothing wrong. These campaigns further develop ambiguity in communication, pulling readers from the faces.

“We know that we condemn it, but we’re not going to be apologetic for it,” journalism sophomore and Muslim Student Association Vice President Ahmed Buzeriba said regarding the attacks in France.

Rightfully, they don’t have to be sorry, because they haven’t committed a crime. It’s no secret many make the mistake of associating all Muslims with the radical ideas of extremists. It should not be so unfathomable to think that not all Muslims are violent extremists, but civil individuals who would rather not have their spiritual beliefs be devalued through cartoons from a French rag.

“Violence is never the answer, even if they are depicting our Prophet, who is really dear to us, as some savage barbarian,” Buzeriba said.

That being said, do not fret. Freedom loving citizens don’t need to compromise their ethics to support freedom of speech. “JesuisAhmed” is on the rise. The hashtag came from the discovery that one of the policemen shot in the Charlie Hebdo attack, Ahmed Merabet, was Muslim. The man died protecting those writers’ right to ridicule his own religion.

Supporting the Ahmed’s actions and his family is a more constructive way to support free speech. Why would you support anyone who abuses rights to say harmful things, rather than supporting someone who uses their rights to do good?

The Muslim community, along with society, knows you can’t stop people from saying nasty things. However, just because one is able to say those things, that doesn’t mean they should.