Written by Alex Rajah
After the weekend following the terrorist attacks on the French satirical magazine company ‘Charlie Hebdo’, which sadly resulted in the deaths of 12 civilians, there were two things on my mind about what this all could mean to us as voters:
- Freedom of speech is something we as a society need and thrive on, and it allows us to have democratic and liberal ideals.
- And like any other freedom it can be used, abused and manipulated to someone’s ideology, hatred or general lack of responsibility.
Now as a P.P.E (Philosophy Politics and Economics) student, who is still learning about politics, I struggled to take a standpoint on the ‘Charlie Hebdo Debate’ which I have witnessed on many social networking sites and so instead I wanted to focus on how people might start to think and discuss notions of Freedom of Speech and what this could mean for our generation.
Terrorism vs Freedom?
Before I begin I will briefly mention that I certainly do not condone the violence that Charlie Hebdo received by the three attackers provoked by the cartoonist’s depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
I also don’t think Charlie Hebdo deserved such an attack similarly to how I don’t believe in ‘eye for an eye’. This too goes for the recent attacks on the Muslim communities and their Mosques within France and elsewhere.
It seems that there are narratives being constructed here ‘that we as the West are free and are being attacked by the East (or at least the Middle East) in acts of terrorism’, however, what is hard to ignore is how terrorism has not only been labelled and subscribed to certain races or religions but has also been through the media the representative of those races and religions.
In attempts to defend this ‘freedom’ against terrorism much of the West has seen a surge of Nationalism like Africa and Asia did during decolonisation but which has led to an ideology that not only undermines what it means to be free but one that seems to breed hatred out of hatred.
Nationalism, Democracy and Farage
So you’re probably thinking ‘What does this all mean?’ ‘Why should I think about this?’ and ‘Why is Farage here?’. Well I can tell you now that perhaps you were right to ask the last question.
For me, the Charlie Hebdo Attacks have not only attempted to polarise two extremists, one that claim to believe in Islam and the other that claim to believe in Nationalism but have strengthened both sides of the conflict as well as causing damaged to what we people call democracy.
The widespread media attention has struck terror into people allowing those who are Islamic Extremists to be feared, achieving their goal in both segregating themselves from those that are not Islamic and keeping the fires of their ideology burning.
While the increase of islamophobia and distortion of the image of Muslims has led to more justifications for the far right and nationalist groups, allowing the acceptance of discrimination and the growing popularity of racism.
Things to Think About
To quote Brian Cox in regards to Free Speech – “The correct statement of individual rights is that everyone has the right to an opinion, but crucially, that opinion can be roundly ignored and even made fun of, particularly if it is demonstrably nonsense!”
I think we do as people need freedom of speech within our society but that does not equate to a freedom of ignorance. Political correctness for instance attempts to prevent the use of racial and belittling slurs because most derive from oppressive ideals or ones that undermine both other people’s freedom and the equality of just about everybody.
Attacks of terrorism and even groups like ISIS, Ku Klux Klan and IRA are for me solely ideological; possessing little to no characteristics of religion. Instead they use religion as a ‘safety net’ or even a justification for their political, economic and nationalistic beliefs causing the corruption of what it means to be part of that religion or share its identity.
For me the attack on Charlie Hebdo was wrong like any of the acts of terrorism that came before it and will come after it. Equally as wrong are any of the islamophobic, racist or discriminative attacks that came before and after such acts of terrorism. However, in deciding whether you personally think what Charlie Hebdo did was wrong or right is something that is for me much harder than I realised.
All I know is that we should all take up the pen rather than the gun but always remember that both are equally as powerful and as dangerous (in the wrong hands) as the other. My heart goes out to all of those that have lost something dear to them from this attack.