Friday 9 January 2015

What Charlie Hebdo Means For Muslims

Almost five months ago, I went to Paris, France for the first time after dreaming about it for the past 20 years of my life. I was only there for a day but if there really is such a thing as love at first sight for a city, then that was it.

Flash forward to two days ago, and the city I had fallen in love with was/is all over the news. Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper in France was attacked by three gunmen. They are known for making fun of all kinds of sensitive topics, including politics, race, culture, and of course, religion. One of the religions they make fun of is Islam.

Previous trouble with the newspaper:

The attack by the three gunmen that happened two days ago on January 7, 2015 was only one of the retaliations on Charlie Hebdo.

In 2011, their office was fire-bombed because Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was called the "editor-in-chief" of an edition titled "Charia Hebdo." Their website was later hacked because a cartoon depicted the Prophet as gay. The text in the first bubble translates to "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter." Here are the two illustrations:


They were in the media again in 2012, when the newspaper published cartoons of the Prophet, this time also having nude caricatures of him. After much criticism, the newspaper's editor said, "We do caricatures of everyone, and above all every week, and when we do it with the Prophet, it's called provocation."

And now we are here in 2015, where their deadliest attack killed 12: Charb (editor), Boisseau (maintenance worker), Renaud (guest), police officers Brinsolaro and Merabet, and staff members Cabut, Cayat, Honoré, Maris, Ourrad, Tignous, and Wolinski. The shooting was done by three gunmen, one who turned himself in and the two others who have now been killed.

What does this mean for Muslims?

Ever since the attack, the phrase "Je Suis Charlie" has been all over the place to show support for what happened. While these cartoonists did make fun of Islam a lot, their newspaper is entirely satirical.

Satire, according to the Oxford dictionary is defined as:
The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.
What happened to them was cruel and an act of terrorism. In recent updates, an Al Qaeda member in Yemen said the attack was done "as revenge for the honour" of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Keep in mind that one of the founders of Al Qaeda was Osama bin Laden, one of the biggest terrorists in history. And while the gunmen did act in the name of Islam after shouting "Allahu Akbar" before they fired shots, that is not what Islam teaches. In no religion is murder okay or encouraged. Although Charlie Hebdo did a lot of offensive material on Islam and the Prophet, they did not deserve this. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression is what they thought they had, but it was taken away from them. I do not condemn the work they did and believe they should have stopped or been less aggressive after the first sign of danger in 2011. They kept pushing it because it was working and giving them more publicity.

What the world needs to know is that muslims were not involved in this attack, terrorists were. But for some ignorant people, those two words seem to be interchangeable. Already, since the shooting, a kebab shop has been bombed in Villefranche-sur-Saone, three grenades thrown at a mosque in Le Mars, France, and shots fired at a Muslim prayer hall in Port-la-Nouvelle. What else is coming for muslims? Ever since the ban of the burqa and niqab in 2010, things just seem to be getting worse for muslims not just in France, but all over the world.

Ahmed Merabet, one of the victims, was a Muslim police officer who died fighting the gunmen outside of Charlie Hebdo. Even though this newspaper mocked his religion, he did what any true Muslim would do, and that is not playing God and doing his own job in this world. I'll end my first blog post with a quote a friend of mine tweeted to me regarding the whole situation:

"Murder cannot be justified no matter who the individual is."