“We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.”
This was just part of a collaborative response by French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo to then-French President Jacques Chirac back in 2006. What were they responding to? Well, at the time, a cowardly and purely political statement made by Chirac that went as follows:
“Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided. Freedom of expression should be exercised in a spirit of responsibility.”
The 'hurt' in question was the Charlie Hebdo weekly magazine republishing the Danish newspaper's controversial cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.
Ever since then, Charlie Hebdo has been the shining example in the world of crass cartooning that Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Expression are essential and completely and utterly necessary in the face of any kind of extreme belief structures that attempt to fear monger the masses into quiet submission. Quiet submission by never questioning or calling out hypocrisy out loud. Quiet submission by never pushing back against violent and/or ridiculous belief tenants that do more harm than good. And complete and total quiet submission into NEVER depicting or even mentioning the Prophet Mohammed out of turn, or in print, in any way whatever, satirical or not.
Pushing back against Muslim extremists' censorship is not the only thing that Charlie Hebdo is all about though. Not by a long shot. You name it, from high-profile world leaders, to any world politician, to celebrities, to any and every religion out there.. Charlie Hebdo has made fun of them all, loudly and proudly. It's what they do. It's their philosophy.
"The aim is to laugh.... We want to laugh at the extremists — every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious, but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept." - Charlie Hedbo staffer Laurent Leger tells BFM-TV back in 2012.
In a world where the internet has a chance to interconnect and digitize billions of voices all at once, all around the world, at this very same time of Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Facetime and so on, we have extremists in every spectrum of intense ideology that attempt to push back against this progress. They aim to kill the free flow of speech, if it doesn't serve their specific purposes or beliefs. They aim to kill the free flow of ideas, thoughts, jokes, and any other form of expression that opposes them. And that's why we as a collective world population need publishers with the bravery of the staff that makes up Charlie Hebdo.
At least 12 people were killed at their publisher's office on 1/7/15, including 2 police men and at least 8 journalists from Charlie Hebdo. This is the prompting for this posting. People were murdered in cold blood for standing up for and expressing their version of freedom of speech. (At least) two men went on a killing spree because they took offence to a newspaper's jabs at their belief structure.
This is a heartbreakingly sad story that I sincerely hope finds swift and total justice to any peoples involved in this senseless violence. While Charlie Hebdo might not be humor made for everyone, they were (and I would put my money on) still are a resilient group of people that truly understand the necessity to push back against extremists and the supposed 'taboo'. We as a collective must always have outlets that exercise freedom of speech and freedom of expression to its farthest limits, even if it makes certain peoples completely uncomfortable.