I’ve decided that I am no longer going to engage with anyone on Facebook about it. 1. When I learnt about the murder of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo, I immediately expressed my outrage about it on Facebook. I unambiguously expressed that no religion is ever worthy of being defended by violence.
Nobody can convince me otherwise so I don’t see the purpose for this ongoing discussion.
2. I support freedom of expression, but I have always held the unwavering view that free expression should be coupled with fair expression. Free expression unchecked can become a platform for bigotry and hate speech.
Charlie Hebdo did not act both freely and fairly. I agree with Donn Marten, who wrote for OpEdNews that when unfair speech hides behind free speech we set ourselves up for history to repeat itself.
Marten writes: “While it is true that Charlie Hebdo also published repugnant imagery of other religions – including Jesus Christ engaging in anal sex – they were a minority among those ridiculing Muslims. The one inescapable fact is that Charlie Hebdo was a hate rag and a hypocritical one at that.
“A former writer was sent packing for ‘inciting racial hatred’ after writing a column alleged to be critical of Jews. He was subsequently put on trial by that bastion of freedom that is France.
“So much for the all-inclusive mockery that the corrupt media has invoked as a smokescreen for the paper’s blatant anti-Muslim agenda.”
Marten points further to Julius Streicher, who was hanged with other Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. Streicher “ran a fine little paper back in the day that was famous for publishing cartoons and editorials that mocked and denigrated a particular religion.
“Der Sturmer was instrumental in fomenting the climate of hatred that would lead to the state sponsored extermination of over six million Jews. Like Charlie Hebdo, Der Sturmer also mixed in cartoons that smeared Catholics and others to provide some ‘balance’ but the primary purpose was to dehumanise Jews, just as Charlie Hebdo does with Muslims.”
3. Many people have tried to convince me that Charb was not a racist. They explain that he was a communist married to an African woman.
I live in a country where Piet Koornhof was married to a coloured woman and voted for the ANC. That didn’t make Koornhof a non-racist.
So, I judge Charb by interpreting his cartoons and not by who he had sex with or by which political party he supported.
4. The campaign, “Je suis (I am) Charlie”, lacks integrity because it has become a platform that has failed to isolate bigots and racists who have used it to vent their hatred under the guise of free speech. I am not even referring to every Tom, Dick and Harry who screams out “Je suis Charlie” on social media.
Just look at the lineup of some of the international political leadership in the Paris march who have jumped on the bandwagon. There are stark images that there were some hypocritical leaders who are guilty of the worst kinds of clampdowns on media freedoms in their countries.
5. Among the many bigots who have joined the campaign the worst are religious bigots of all persuasions who are using the campaign to proselytise and to prove why their religion is better than the other. Anyone who is so insecure of his or her own belief system and/or who disrespects the beliefs of another is no different to a person who treats a person differently because they are racially or culturally different.
For these bigots, religion is the racism of the soul. I don’t see the need to engage with them.
6. So many people on Facebook have painted “all Muslims” with the same paintbrush as the murdering terrorists who invaded the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo. They’ve lost sight that there are good people and bad people in all communities.
If all Muslims are bad how easily it is that we forget about people like Malala Yousafzai, Ferial Haffejee, Amina Cachalia, Imtiaz Sooliman of the Gift of the Givers Foundation and the many people in our own communities. The “all Muslims” tag is no different to the “all blacks” tag with which apartheid brainwashed South Africans.
7. Political positions on Charlie are so hard core and so diverse. I have yet to see anyone on any side of the Facebook discussions sit back and reflect to say: “Oh that is a new insight, it makes me rethink my position”.
Nobody gives in and nobody will. Each side unearths more and more texts to defend their positions. (Yip, I’m guilty of doing that, I know).
The discussions get so clouded that everyone ends up feeling even more polarised than ever before. A lot of the discussions where no one is prepared to waver their position should be moved from the broad general pages to the more specific pages where like minds can congregate, pat each other on the back and intellectualise ad nauseam.
8. I mourn the loss of lives in Paris. I mourn with a city that I love immensely and from which I’ve just recently returned.
I mourn with a nation whose values for freedom of expression has been a home to so many South African artists and political exiles. I mourn with friends in France who were as utterly shocked as I was when we learnt about the massacre at Charlie Hebdo.
Our grief is not just about the attack on “media freedoms” and the loss of lives at the magazine. It is also about the families who have been robbed of their loved ones.
In our need to try to make sense of what has happened and the consequences that followed, we haven’t had the time to mourn, to express our condolences, to reflect on how we can still walk forward together.
In our outrage, anger and our need simply to make sense of the killings, we’ve given more force to the river that flows between us.
We’re forgetting how to try to sail on the same river so that neither of us drowns in the wild torrents with which the river wishes to gulp down all of us.
Goodbye Charlie . . . till we meet again in heaven or hell. Let’s just hope that wherever it is that the Group Areas Act doesn’t still keep us apart.