by (guest contributor) Pink Panther

On 7th January, 2015, in Paris, seventeen people were killed by Islamic-inspired terrorists.  Twelve of those killed were staff of the notorious magazine Charlie Hebdo whose often pornographic portrayals of the Prophet Mohammad, the founder of the Islamic faith, and generally anti-religious articles and cartoons have caused controversy in France.

While cries of outrage swept the world and millions rallied behind the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie) to express outrage at this terrorist attack on a magazine promoting its opinions, there was little discussion of the fact the Charlie Hebdo magazine had been advocating anti-islamic hatred in a country where it’s estimated six million* Muslims often face poverty, lack of opportunities and racism in accomodation, employment and other facets of daily life.

A week later millions of people, including many world leaders, marched in Paris in defence of free speech. It was not lost on many that some of those leaders have been anything but defenders of freedom of speech. Israel, which was represented in Paris by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is just one of the countries that have jailed people for using satire when the targets have been Jews and locking up journalists in both Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Almost as soon as the Charlie Hebdo incident happened, the BBC was reporting that there had been attacks on mosques in France and the United States. On networks such as Fox News there were anti-Islamic tirades which was echoed by News Corp owner Rupert Murdoch who stated Muslims should all take responsibility for terrorism committed by terrorists. Anti-Islamic protests also took place in Germany where many interviewed stated that Islam was an evil ideology and that Muslims should be kicked out of Germany. There were also attacks on Jewish targets.

For many Muslims this has been seen as just another example of Western hypocrisy where they have been quick to highlight terrorist attacks by Muslims but have either ignored or played down or instigated attacks against Muslims, especially when it has involved the Israeli military and Jewish settlers on the West Bank or Zionist hate groups.

I can understand the motives behind the terrorist attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine. However, there is never justification for an attack on journalists and others exercising freedom of speech, no matter how vile it is, but we must not ignore the fact that bigotry in the media can have serious consequences.

A classic example is Der Sturmer. Both before and during the Nazi regime in Germany this magazine incited racist hatred towards the Jews in grotesque cartoons and catchy rhymes aimed at planting the idea that Jews were both responsible for everything that went wrong in Germany and needed to be eradicated from society.
Just as vile was the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines in Rwanda whose calls for Tutsis and moderate Hutus to be killed led to genocide in 1994. It was estimated that 51,000 out of the nearly one million people killed, died as the direct result of that media outlet. There are other, less extreme, examples.

It is obvious that the Charlie Hebdo staff were inciting bigotry but killing was not the way to deal with it and the killers were no defenders of tolerance themselves.

Freedom of speech is not just for people who think like us. It is a universal and inalienable right. Any attempt to restrict freedom of speech, no matter how disgusting that speech may be, will only end up being used against us or, worse, it can turn perpetrators into martyrs.

It’s interesting that prior to the attacks the circulation of the magazine was around 30,000. Afterwards over a million copies were sold. So much for these type of incidents silencing such magazines, if that was the intent!

It’s not bullets that best silence annoying people like those who write for Charlie Hebdo. It’s doing our upmost to create a vibrant, multi-cultural and cosmopolitan society which accepts everyone for who they are and has a strong and meaningful commitment to economic and political equality. Something the current dominant system of capitalism with its gross lack of these qualities, can’t deliver.

In France many condemned the terrorist attacks but were appalled by the bigotry of Charlie Hebdo. They responded with their own hashtag: #JeSuisPASCharlie.
I, too, say #JeSuisPASCharlie. I am not Charlie. I am for freedom of speech – and the responsibility that comes with it.

* By law the French government cannot ask people what their faith is on census forms but around 2.1 million people officially stated they were Muslim though it is estimated that around 5 – 6 million people in Metropolitan France are Muslim.