Je Suis Charlie?

Omidi Family Je Suis Charlie

Julian Omidi writes about the recent shooting in Paris, France. The victims were journalists and cartoonists from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

In the wake of shooting at the Charlie Hebdo office, emotions are stirring in France and around the world. The shooting in Paris occurred on Wednesday. Two masked, heavily armed men entered the office during an editorial meeting and opened fire, killing two policemen and ten journalists.

The satirical magazine is notorious for offending religious communities. Muslims around the world protested several cartoon depictions of their prophet that Charlie Hebdo published. The shooting was allegedly in response to the way the magazine has portrayed Muslims. Witnesses told police one of the gunmen shouted, “We have avenged the prophet. We killed Charlie Hebdo.”

Earlier today, the two men responsible for the Charlie Hebdo shooting and another were killed after taking a hostage. They can no longer instill fear into the communities of Paris.

Words and violence

Charlie Hebdo tried hard to offend nearly any group of people. Self-described as “Journal irresponsable” (irresponsible magazine), it is an equal opportunity offender. They have taken shots at the right, the left, Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and nearly any other group you can think of. They used words and symbols, which can hurt, but words never require a violent response.

The old nursery rhyme, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” comes to mind. It is used to convince taunting victims to refrain from physical retaliation. It reminds them that words do not physically harm anyone and to choose appropriate responses to provocation.

Charlie Hebdo certainly is guilty of provocation. But civilized societies have no place for this type of response to cartoons. Are the remarks and cartoons of Charlie Hebdo civil? That is certainly up for debate, but the actions of these murderers are most certainly not.

Where do we go from here?

You’ll probably see articles and comments from your friends on Facebook about this most recent tragedy and the events that inspired it. People are claiming the magazine has some responsibility in the shooting because of the nature of the views they expressed.

Should people in free societies be allowed to publicly humiliate large groups based on their beliefs? That, too is up for debate. One thing is certain: Free societies cannot let murderers dictate what can and can’t be said. The fear of violence should not determine what people can or cannot say.

How do we go on from here? Do we put an end to offensive speech? In an ideal world, maybe. But we don’t live in an ideal world. We should aim for the standard of knowing what we say could attract violence, but speaking out as though there is no threat. This is the nature of courage.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi and the Omidi family, Cindy Omidi and Dr. Michael Omidi, are founders of several charities aimed at improving lives for humans and animals around the world.

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