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Hashtag Charlie Hebdo Hashtag Je Suis Charlie Hashtag Moral Outrage

January 10, 2015

Hashtag Charlie Hebdo Hashtag Je Suis Charlie Hashtag Moral Outrage

When the gunmen burst into the Charlie Hebdo building and murdered 12 people very few people want to draw the direct link to the ideology that motivated the gunmen. Even with the gunmen clearly videoed shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ on the street outside of the Charlie Hebdo office nobody wants to label this as another example of Islamic Terrorism.

Manhunt is on for the suspects

What we do have is a major focus upon the issue of freedom of expression. For a large part this is an important point but let’s not forget that this principle is sometimes inconsistently adhered to. The moral outrage from when the current federal government attempted to withdrawn 18c of the anti-discrimination act was palpable. The Australian Law that makes it a crime to offend people is still in force. Freedom of expression seems to be only limited to the favoured.

Nor can we escape that overwhelming evidence that Charlie Hebdo was not a high-class publication of intellectually clever satire. It was just another left wing rag whose staple was to offend the so-called mainstream. A quick perusal of their front pages presents an image of cheap unfunny gutter humour. In many cases, you will see the same style of cartoons used by the worst nativists of the 19th century to images that would make Nazi propagandists proud. Yet for most of their career in publication, Charlie Hedbo received no serious condemnation for their actions. Had they not reprinted a series of cartoons depicting Muhammad in a negative way then the magazine would have remained in obscurity. However, the magazine was determined to earn its reputation for fearlessness and went ahead. The death threats and firebombing of their building followed. Who would have thought that being so irrationally provocative would attract an irrationally violent response?

When Charlie Hebdo magazine set out to insult Jews and Christians in just as extreme degrading manner and were never threatened with violence. However the moment they insulted the Prophet of Islam all hell broke loose. Not just from Muslims but also from voices in the media that only showed outrage after the Mohammad cartoons were published. It was as if only Islam deserved to be spared the poison pen because they may actually respond in a violent manner.

For example:

French President Jacques Chirac called the images overt provocations which could inflame passions. ‘Anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular, religious convictions, should be avoided’

The Union of French Islamic Organisations (UOIF) unsuccessfully tried to sue Charlie Hebdo claiming that it had published racist cartoons.

In November 2011the officers of Charlie Hebdo was firebombed

In 2012 riot police were sent to protect the Charlie Hebdo office out of fear that it would be attacked following the release of a controversial film called ‘Innocence of Muslims’.

The magazine also published nude depictions of Mohammad in 2012 and was criticised by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who criticised the magazine’s decision, saying, ‘In France, there is a principle of freedom of expression, which should not be undermined. In the present context, given this absurd video that has been aired (Innocence of Muslims), strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries. Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?’

This brings up to 2015 where the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked by gunmen who slaughtered 12 staff.

The reality of the latest attack on Charlie Hebdo leaves no doubt that they were being targeted by Islamic extremists. The reaction to the publication of Mohammad based cartoons instantly drew criticism from non-Muslim and Muslim sources which eventuated death threats, a firebombing and a terrorist massacre. No such reaction has ever occurred when the magazine attacked other religions.

In the short term, the deaths have been a catalyst for mass protests in France to defend the right to free speech. Je Suis Charlie (We Are Charlie) has been the most vocal and visual response to what can only be described as fanatical savagery. However, I am yet to see newspapers deciding to reprint the ‘offending’ cartoons as a sign of defiance. Perhaps it will happen in the coming days.

If the only lesson we take from the attack is to be more offensive as a sign of defiance (or over some vague definition of free speech) then little will have been gained. Especially if within days it reverts back to a politically correct mush that results in increased vitriol toward religions that are not killing people who offend them whilst conveniently omitting the one that does. An even worse scenario is that giving offence becomes a virtue in itself. Thus reasonable discourse is once again sacrificed on the altar of propaganda.

Failing to see the real issue, that the western democracy is facing a serious threat from radical Islam will be to our own detriment.

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