As a sometimes writer, avid reader, lover of perspective and left leaning hater of extremism I was appalled by the attack on Charlie Hebdo. I felt sick not only as a connoisseur of cultural satire, but felt disgusted as I do with any senseless shooting, a loss of any life abruptly cut short. I value freedom of speech, and although I sincerely try to anchor my writing in facts, blanket pieces in citations and hyperlinks so anything deemed controversial can be viewed as an opinion beyond my own I do feel that artists of all kinds are warranted to freedom of speech. As much as I may face Islamophobic and race related microagressions I do appreciate and will endlessly be blessed to live the way I do in North America.
I did post a photo of my writing setup that day with a relevant caption of the pen being greater than a gun, in honor of those shot in Paris and to express my views on non-violence being much better than violence will ever be, I refuse to engage with or use the hash tag Je Suis Charlie.
I am not and will never be Charlie. I will never and actively avoid creating content that hurts the embodiment and existence of others. I do not believe the creators should have been killed in any way and I will forever mourn the lives lost, the police officers included. I have a very specific sadness for the Jewish community targeted at a Kosher meat shop, as a Muslim I can sympathize with attacks that are identity related. Hate crimes are terrifying to say the least and no community should go through that. I also want to acknowledge that during these attacks a number of people with multiple identities were killed, not only the faces we see on television of those from the magazine. I think in this case following the example of the Prophet Muhammad (May Peace Be Upon Him) would have been the more Islamic path. Muhammad (MPBUH) had many people who disliked him, beyond what many identity as “modern day haters,” and I truly believe his life is filled with anecdotes on how to handle our haters in any forum. An anecdote I will always remember being told as a child and throughout high school is of the Prophets compassion for a people who threw trash at him. When I say trash keep in mind I don’t mean today’s trash with plastics and recyclables, I’m talking fear factor levels of rotting meat intestines, human feces, animal blood, some say a sheep uterus, essentially all levels of nasty. The Prophet (PBUH) showed only clemency and forgiveness, he didn’t lash out the way many others would. So in this way I try to live my life as a Muslim, I accept bad things that happen, reflect but realize that violence accomplishes nothing. Additionally, with anti-Muslim sentiments constantly alive, with a Pew Research Center report citing Athiests and Muslims as the most disliked groups, I actively try to explain the Islam I know and love, one that filled with love for women and peace.
I find it extremely interesting that many have followed this trend in saying ‘”Je Suis Charlie” when I highly doubt they know the full extent of offensive things the magazine has published. I know people dislike Islam, and are ignorant about the nuances in Islam, I’ve watched enough Homeland and listened to Serial as well as living in my Muslim body. I grew up in Florida post 9/11, and have moments where I can understand why specific individual who have only been fed a diet of Fox news and hate homogenize all Muslims but not all white male serial killers and rapists.
Charlie Hebdo has published “satire” that crosses the fine line between “satire” and hate speech multiple times. I do not want to single out the publication, I often discuss media platforms with skewed representations of groups. This isn’t any different than when I dissected fellow South Asian Mindy Kaling’s blurring of consent in relationships. When given power in media there is a need for accountability when lines are crossed. Charlie Hebdo may have created satirical commentary on a number of religions but it does seem that Islam was a suspiciously disproportionately targeted religion. Beyond Islam, the magazine has a number of covers that only benefited specific audiences. The magazine did seem to care about religious hate speech in 2009 when they fired a cartoonist for anti-Semitism.
This magazine was anti-black, sexist, homophobic and has fat shamed. Maybe it’s the human in me, but this magazine and its following remind me of my shitty uncle I have to see during holidays and family events, that I disagree and fight with every time I see. Charlie Hebdo is my trash relative that I will never aspire to be.
Here are some cartoons from the magazine that have nothing to do with Islam, because if this isn’t bigotry I need to know what is:
This cartoon depicts a French cabinet minister Christiane Taubira, because this isn’t anti-black at all…
Here is a callous depiction of the Nigerian girls kidnapped and forced into sex slavery by Boko Haram as welfare queens, but hey again let’s buy this publication and show solidarity for the magazine.
Here are some more:
So no, I am not Charlie, I would never actively put out art that sweepingly stereotyped and hurt so many people. Those acts were committed not in my name, and I should not feel a need as a Muslim to stop distinguishing the difference between supporting freedom of speech but never the magazine’s content. I will show solidarity for the slain but not the publication, there is a need to separate the artist from the art.
I will never be Charlie and I am very uncomfortable with portraying their art as heroic or brave when it goes against so many of my beliefs. I rather support peace and coexistence through other means. This is more of a cautionary tale of knowing content and context before instinctively following a trend on solidarity.
Perhaps I can’t take a joke, but before we all hashtag and join hands to chime “Je Suis Charlie” or any iteration of that remember what Charlie Hebdo has printed and what you are co-signing with that statement.
Je ne suis pas Charlie Hebdo.