On the 7th January twelve people were shot dead in an apparent militant Islamist attack at the office of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical magazine. This attack has been widely condemned and many people have shown their support for the family of the victims on Twitter with the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie). I join them in offering my condolences to the friends and family of the victims.
This attack was not carried out in the name of Islam but in the radicalised and warped view that the perpetrators hold. To suggest that this attack is reflective of Muslims everywhere is offensive, ignorant and wrong. Unfortunately, following the attack at Charlie Hebdo there have been several attacks on innocent Muslims around France. This is not right and should not be ignored.
Whilst condemning these acts of violence, I also disagree with material the magazine publishes. It has been racist, xenophobic and homophobic all of which are forms of bullying and should not be encouraged. Disagreeing with the content Charlie Hebdo publishes in no way endorses the attack. It was wholly unjustified and wrong. It is possible to disagree with multiple things simultaneously – I don’t agree with what you’re saying but with your right to say it.
Furthermore critique or disagreement is not going against freedom of speech. You have the right to say what you want and I have the right to agree or disagree. Freedom of speech is not freedom from criticism. We have freedom of speech within the law. This means it is limited in certain cases since this freedom “carries with it duties and responsibilities” including the prohibiting of hate speech.
It is more important than ever to emphasise the messages of tolerance over those of hatred and in this case Islamophobia. We can achieve a lot on our own but even more when we work together.