In memory of the journalists killed in the attack on the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, on January 7th

Another attack. This time, it’s in France.

For those not familiar with the background story: Charlie Hebdo is one of the main French satirical newspaper. After the scandal of the Danish caricatures of Muhammad, they published a number of caricatures of their own as an act of solidarity. That was back in 2005. They had received numerous death threats ever since, and an actual attack had destroyed their offices in 2011, fortunately while no one was inside. All this time, they kept publishing caricatures of religious figures (Islamic, mostly, though not solely), against a rising controversy. This time, however, they were not so lucky. As of now, a dozen people are dead (journalists, and policemen who were tasked with protecting them), and five more are seriously injured.

It is not relevant today to discuss whether their policy of publishing caricatures of increasing offensiveness over the year was tasteful or not. It was not meant to be anyway. It was indeed a bit racist at times. I could not always see why they were doing it, and I wasn’t quite certain it was their place to publish such things. Well, today’s attack has just proven them right in the most spectacular way. The reason why they kept publishing those caricatures was because they said they could not allow threats to silence them. And now those threats have been revealed to be extremely, horrifyingly real.

This is a case where, for once, the phrase ‘freedom of speech’ becomes relevant again. No matter how offensive Charlie Hebdo journalists have been, nothing they could ever have said warranted a death sentence. Yet they died for it. They deserved controversy, they deserved disagreement (and they got both in plenty), but they never deserved death. And yet death they got.

Ironically enough, one of their most famous covers featured a drawing titled ‘Love stronger than hatred’, which showed a journalist and a religious man exchanging a passionate kiss. In the end, hatred proved to be stronger. Only a few weeks have gone by since hatred was strong enough to cause the death of a hundred schoolchildren in Pakistan, by similarly hateful, misguided people. This is enough.

This is not about Islam. It has never been. This is not about Muslims either, and this is not about journalists. Now France is expecting an inevitable deluge of hatred–from the people who will cheer at the attack and say that the journalists got what was coming to them (no, they didn’t), and from the people who will jump on this opportunity to let everyone know they are racist, islamophobic bastards and proud to be. This is not about those people either. This is… no, I can’t pretend to know what this is about. I don’t know anything. I just know I’m not going to start hating people because of it, because this is enough. We’ve all had enough.

In memory of the journalists slaughtered today, please don’t let us start hating.


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