By: Steven Goodman – Asst. Opinions Editor
The attacks on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo earlier this month have easily been one of the most impactful terrorist attacks in the last couple years. Even now it’s nearly impossible to read the news without finding some article about the shooting. Whether it’s protests in the Middle East or the high sales of the newest issue of Charlie Hebdo, this attack has continued to affect our world.
Part of the effect of attacking this previously unknown magazine has been to start a conversation about freedom of expression, especially when it comes to speaking or writing about religion.
The forces that have stood out in this conversation are Islamic nations such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar and others. Saudi Arabia called the Charlie Hebdo killings a “cowardly terrorist attack that was rejected by the true Islamic religion.” Many other nations, according to the Guardian, issued statements with the same message.
In addition, one man spoke out on these attacks who has as much impact on this conversation as any country: Pope Francis. He effectively said that freedom of expression should always be allowed, but there are limits, especially when it comes to mocking religion:“You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. There is a limit.”
Basically, if you are going to poke fun at the faith of another person, repercussions are to be expected. To condemn a magazine, tell the world that you do not agree with its message, argue about what exactly offends you; violence and murder are never, and will never, be the answer.
While some response to offensive or insulting material is to be expected, I don’t believe placing all of religion in this “off limits” zone is the right answer. When you begin to add limitations to a freedom, it slowly becomes less free. After all, once religion is put to the side, what’s to stop the same thing from happening to other ideals?
I know some individuals are under the impression that Muslims are “overreacting” and shouldn’t worry about what a magazine does. Obviously killing is not the route to take, but Muslims have every right to be angry about a magazine insulting their faith.
It’s just that the extremist Muslims are those the Western world sees on a day-to-day basis in the news. Never mind the over 1 billion peaceful Muslims in the world, we tend to base our ideas of a group of people off the ones that end up in the news. And let’s be honest, if a magazine insulted the Christian faith on the same level that Charlie Hebdo did to Islam, the Christian community would start yelling and probably not stop until said publication was shut down.
With the release of the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo, the magazine showed it’s still the same. To me, that shows that the writers truly believe in freedom of expression. While it should not be limited, certain reasonable repercussions should be expected from it. That does not mean, however, that violence is an appropriate response.
I remember a comedian once saying that “when you make fun of everybody, you aren’t making fun of anybody.” While this might not seem true when your own personal ideals are the subject of the joke, I see this as the perfect definition for freedom of expression. Charlie Hebdo showed that it hasn’t changed its ideals and neither should we change our definition of freedom of expression.