The attack Wednesday in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine, left 12 dead including the editor and a number of cartoonists. If the attack was revenge for Charlie Hebdo’s past use of sardonic humor to poke fun at Islam, the outrage we feel is compounded by the fact that this is also a gross misuse of religion.
We may feel physically helpless in the face of such a brazen assault on people whose only weapons are pencils and ink. But like other such cowardly acts, these murders only unmask the desperation of lunatics on the fringe of society who cannot compete in the world of ideas.
The world is saying ‘Je Suis Charlie.” We stand with that philosophically. But in fact nous ne sommes pas Charlie. If we were Charlie we would be facing grenades and AK47 fire, or dead. It took enormous courage and fortitude and daring to print what Charlie Hebdo printed. There have only been a handful of publications with that fortitude. Few possess it and you have to pause and think what it really means. It is not easy.
Nonetheless, at Asia Sentinel, “I am Charlie,” taken from the magazine’s website, is a sentiment we support. We hope our readers will pass on the sentiment with a real understanding of what that phrase means. It means daring death at the hands of an irrational subsect of a religion that is going off the rails and will kill for reasons that do not resonate with a world in which freedom of expression is non-negotiable. We will miss the Charlie Hebdo guys. We hope that, as journalists, we have the courage and fortitude to stand up when lunatics come hunting for our colleagues closer to home. This is not a game in which slogans are easy to spout and hard to dare murder to live up to.