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Charlie Hebdo: “legitimate grounds to reflect on how society functions and what can be done to improve it”

Following the abhorrent shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, discussions on freedom of speech and religious sentiments have dominated all forms of media. While the majority of people are spending time focusing on these debates, a self-serving few have decided to engage in the highest form of disrespect by manipulating the tragedy to promote their own goals.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage has already been called out for his absurd comparison between British multiculturalism and the religious extremism that motivated the attacks. Rupert Murdoch was lampooned on Twitter for his demand of an all-Muslim apology. So too was Donald Trump for suggesting less gun control in the wake of the attack.

“While this horrendous crime is an outrage, it is also something that should have been expected.”

There was also general disapproval at opportunistic leaders who took part in the solidarity march in Paris while blatantly abusing human rights in their own countries. Reporters Without Borders criticised the inclusion of countries like Russia, the UAE and Turkey in a march for journalistic freedom when they actively practise censorship, while London School of Economics student Daniel Wickham went on a well-publicised Twitter tirade to voice his displeasure at the hypocrisy.

Unfortunately, other groups and individuals have been less well scrutinised. The National Rifle Association made a similar statement to Trump’s, sharing a short press release that suggested that the Second Amendment kept the USA safe from such incidents. National Review editor Rich Lowry said the National Security Agency’s (NSA) existence has been justified because it would have been able to prevent the assault, stating “It [Charlie Hebdo] highlights the importance of surveillance… This is a reason we have things like the NSA program.” This was echoed by US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who said “While this horrendous crime is an outrage, it is also something that should have been expected.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the support for free speech has been used to promote the idea that religion is under threat.

On the other end of the spectrum, the support for free speech has been used to promote the idea that religion is under threat. Rallies against Charlie Hebdo were being held in Karachi and Niger at the same time as the march in Paris. Further to this, protests have arisen throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indian Kashmir. The western reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attacks has been evidenced by some that Muslims everywhere are under threat, spinning the violence as an expected reaction to religious discrimination.

A tragedy of any scale is legitimate grounds to reflect on how society functions and what can be done to improve it. It is inevitable that a situation which involves nuances such as the responsibilities of free speech and religious sensitivity is bound to create a heated debate. Exploiting that situation to further narrow and prejudiced views, however, is nothing short of repugnant and must not be allowed to continue. Otherwise, we risk creating a more treacherous world than the one Cabu and Merabet left behind.

Ibtisam Ahmed

Image courtesy of Thomas Bresson via Flickr

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