Written by Emily Ingram
Dubbed as ‘defiant’, an act of ‘forgiveness’ and even, in the case of Boris Johnson, inevitable, fierce debate and speculation concerning the controversial nature of Charlie Hebdo’s newest edition is now rife across all corners the media. But given the considerable consequences of last week’s vicious attacks, was it the right thing to do?
Following last Wednesday’s harrowing tragedy, columnists at the now notorious satirical magazine claim that their chief intention is to “forgive” those of the extremist group that brought destruction to the publication. They have conveyed to the global media their staunch belief that this is the only way forward, as it is the ‘ideology’ of Islamic extremists they oppose, rather than the individuals themselves who committed the crime. But in what form does this sense of optimism and absolution come? Through a blatant depiction of the prophet Muhammad on their new cover, of course.
Muslim leaders across Europe have called for calm as a result of the subsequent outcry. Keeping in mind that those devout to the Islamic faith- indeed, a large portion of the entire Muslim population- find depictions of any prophet to be an act of heresy, how can this cover, despite its message of forgiveness, possibly be considered as a constructive in the battle against terrorism? The answer is, it simply cannot. Rather, it is an extension of the suffering already felt by those who are part of France’s innocent and vulnerable Muslim population. This, to me, is not a symbol of noble forgiveness, but an ill-thought-out weapon of revenge, pointed directly at those who hold none of the blame. With this act alone, the magazine has effectively sought to offend all those who are innocent within this entire situation – normal citizens. Charlie Hebdo have hence put many more lives in danger; undoubtedly, the vicious marginalisation of all Muslims will steadily increase across France, as can already be seen in the news through stories of violent hate-crime attacks.
This, as we all know, will lead to a further degree of extremist retaliation, as living standards for those who are isolated decrease, and a sense of fear rockets, giving way to extreme ideas that many under normal circumstances would not deem acceptable. It is a case that has been observed repeatedly throughout history – retaliation of hatred, with an equal amount of hatred, creates a never ending cycle of fear and destruction. Yet, it is the civilians who will suffer from these circumstances, whatever their faith; it’s fair to say that every citizen in Europe now exists under the constant shadow of fear for where the next attack will be directed, and by whom it will be conducted. Furthermore, a vast array of racist groups will be allowed creep into prevalence throughout every country, with the use of social media and the internet to spread harmful ideas.
The columnists and artists at Charlie Hebdo are certainly not criminals, but they are far from freedom fighters. I believe that satirical work such as theirs is important to have present in the modern media, and I was struck with a sense of profound loss and fear following the news of the brutal attacks. But this is not the way to avenge those who so horribly lost their lives. With this new edition, the publication is simply fuelling the fire on both sides of extremism, and leading innocent people straight into the flames.