Starting a Conversation about Charlie Hebdo

Tanya Calvin It’s unusual for me to write something that basically says “I have no idea what the answer to this problem is.” Writing, to me, is about presenting my ideas and opinions in an educated and pointed way, but this feels almost like the opposite of that. I say this because I want my readers to understand that I have so many unanswered questions about the current tensions in Europe and hope that this editorial will serve the purpose I always hope my pieces will—to start a conversation. What is so complicated and powerful that it has made me take a step back from my principals as a journalist? What has shaken me so much that I can’t even come up with a definite opinion on the issue? Terrorism, of course. The headlines have been disturbing these past few weeks no matter what outlet you get your news from. The attack in Paris has created fear in many ways. The first is obvious; artists feel that their freedom to express their opinions creatively is at risk. In America, where our freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution, it’s easy to see this situation as very black and white. The question I feel is being ignored, however, is what the freedom of press really means when you take into account the consequences it has not for the artist, but for the people being oppressed by the work of art itself. Is the freedom of speech worth it if its manifestation strips people of their dignity? In Europe, however, the repercussions of the attack, not the cartoon, have also affected the Muslim population. Islamophobia is at an all time high, much like it was in the U.S. after 9/11. The fear is understandable, but it’s being directed towards the wrong group of people. It feels ridiculous to have to say this, but its a reminder I think is necessary—not all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, most aren’t even radicals. Most condemn all of the violent acts that are carried out in the name of Islam. Muslims in Europe aren’t really allowed to claim a culture, Islamic or European. They exist in a strange limbo that makes encourages terrorist groups to try to recruit them and for Europeans to stir up an anti-Islam movement that has, in fact, existed long before groups like ISIS existed. Something that did not have nearly as much news coverage as the attack in Paris were two attacks of a mosque in Germany (one on December 22, 2014 and another on January 11, 2015). There was an anti-Islam protest, also in Germany, with 15,000 people present. There is an entire movement happening in Europe attempting to eliminate Islam from the continent, and it’s even been given a name—Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West. That reminds me an awful lot of the mindless anti-Semitic campaigns that occurred during the beginning of Nazi power. It’s an attempt to eliminate an entire religious group from a certain territory based off the belief that they’re a threat to the white, Christian population. I don’t mean to take the focus off of the awful events that took place, nor am I saying that the grieving for the victims of the attack is uncalled for. What they published was offensive, but no cartoon, which has no direct and physical effect on the ability of a population to succeed, deserves death. I just don’t think the other consequences should be ignored in light of that grief. Of course, everything published in the Forum has to have a direct connection to the Latin community, and even while this event took place across an entire ocean, it speaks to how students at Latin should be allowed to express themselves. Our school encourages us to speak out about our opinions and foster discussion both in and out of the classroom, but often times students are hesitant to do so because they’re worried they might offend someone. Our Honor Council ensures that students feel safe at school, but does that mean the Council must necessarily censor speech? And does that contradict the encouragement to voice opinion? Like I said in the beginning of this piece, I really don’t know, but it’s something that we must consider if Latin is going to continue to be a place where teenagers are allowed to grow through educated discussion. As a senior, I’ve been told many times we should leave something positive behind after graduation. I hope that my message was, and always will be, this: someone is always going to be offended by your opinion, your caution should not lie in that worry but rather the worry that your actions and words will negatively alter someone’s experience as a student at Latin. Charlie Hebdo did not deserve to die for expressing himself, but the events are negatively altering the experiences of Muslims in Europe, and that’s an issue that needs to be addressed just as much as that of terrorism.]]>