In the last few days I have followed very closely the waves of zealous knights of free speech who claimed to be Charlie, juxtaposed to the waves of similarly zealous Islamophobe who see a terrorist behind every abhaya and couldn’t wait for something like this to happen to finally believe they were right.
I grew up around Muslim friends, many of which today, also in the name of Allah, help the less fortunate for a living (doctors, lawyes, human right activists), so I know I don’t belong to the muslim=terrorist category. I am also an atheist, so whatever joke or cartoon regarding religion doesn’t really bother me, and in a few occasions Charlie has made me laugh – guilty!
A lot has been said about freedom of speech. The world was compact in condemning the violence and yet rather split when it came to defining the limits -if any- of what we call freedom of speech. How far can we really go? Because as a feminist I do read carefully all the messages I come across and get upset (no, furious.. that’s the word) when I see sexist statements. A lot of the freedom movements have been aimed at granting a kind of freedom or right, but the case of Charlie Hebdo proves how a right can be demanded through other means. Because, as much as we don’t want to admit it, going on a rampage against those who insult your religion on a weekly basis is a more violent form of freedom of speech.
Using terrorism is a powerful and yet dangerous strategy: even if this time the world was quite vocal about the need to prevent islamophobia, the old ladies on the bus will still be uncomfortable about arabs and raids against muslims will continue to be carried out. I waited for a week before saying something about this tragedy, for many reasons, but mostly because I wanted to see what the response of the victims was going to be. And in spite of those who have felt heroic for marching in Paris, in spite of those who have claimed to be Charlie on their facebook page, in spite of those who have broadcasted their humility by asserting not to be brave enough to call themselves Charlie, the only winner is Charlie Hebdo.
The cartoon (Prophet Mohammed holding the sign “je suis charlie”) and the sentence that goes with it “tout est pardonne – everything is forgiven” are the strongest, most disarming weapon the magazine could use. By offering forgiveness, even though I’m sure the ashes of frustration and anger are still burning in each and everyone of those who survived the attack, Charlie Hebdo pulverizes whatever weapon the jihadists may think they are using.
Forgiveness, which is at the base of most monotheistic religions, is granted. Which immediately places Charlie on a higher level: you may attack me but you can’t destroy me, because I am able to forgive.
I’m not sure if I can call myself Charlie or not, I’m not even sure I want to, like everyone I fight my battles, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, nobody has threatened to kill me yet and I’m probably just an average person with an average life. But now I fear the world I live in, not because of the occasional terrorist, but for all the average Joes like me who now feel “they are at war” and from now on will feel entitled to use violence against anyone they consider a threat.
Charlie has forgiven.