Re: Je ne suis pas Charlie

Argument is off base

Letters published in the Manitoban are edited for spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Views expressed in the letters are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manitoban.

I frankly find it disturbing and unsettling that Raylene Paci, in her Jan. 21 article “Je ne suis pas Charlie,” takes offence to the Manitoban publishing a cartoon from Charlie Hebdo the week after the attack in Paris. The magazine mocks extremist proponents of Islam, and Paci essentially tries to argue through an appeal to ignorance that publishing this cartoon is an affront to Muhammad and supposedly insensitive to Muslims who are not radicalized and do not support the extremist forms of Islam.

Paci seems to believe that simply publishing a satirical cartoon will cultivate an increasingly xenophobic environment against moderate practitioners of Islam. Paci argues that she supports free speech so long as it’s practised with a “sense of decency, intelligence, and respect” and that “consistently attacking an entire religion just because you can should not be acceptable.”

Even though she accurately describes Charlie Hebdo as a satirical publication, she simultaneously fails to recognize that it is a satirical magazine. By that very definition and by the freedom afforded to the editors by an autonomous country to be able to practise freedom of speech, the magazine should be able to publish satirical content just as the Manitoban is able to.

Paci essentially calls for censorship because Islam and Muhammad are sacred and cannot be mocked because they are sacred. This kind of circular reasoning is quite dangerous (especially when it comes to discussions on religion) and essentially says that the terrorists in Paris were acting within their rights to protect their religion, even though Paci tries her damnedest to distance moderate Islam from radicalized Islam.

I am in no way insinuating (in the way that Paci will no doubt assume that I and anyone else would be who is exposed to the “damaging” nature of a simple cartoon) that all of Islam is radical – quite the contrary. I recognize every religion has extremist sects and a distinction has to be made between the extremists and the mainstream.

Paci goes on to say that “Radical Islam is different from Islam, something these cartoons don’t always differentiate.” How, exactly, are they not differentiated? Art does not inherently say anything. Whatever message a person gets from any exposure to media is based around their biases and life experiences.

If a racist bigot sees the cartoon, then their ignorant opinions on Islam will simply be reinforced. Censoring the cartoon does nothing to change the bigot. Art is purely subjective and should not be twisted to fit someone’s notion of maliciously attacking an entire religion and its adherents.

Furthermore, if radical Islam is so different from moderate Islam (which it undoubtedly is), why is Paci taking any offence at all? The cartoon is not directed towards Islam but radicalized terrorists who belong to a wholly different set of beliefs and practices. Believing that anyone who views the cartoon will automatically think that moderate Islam is just as zealous and dangerous as radical Islam is severely underestimating the critical faculties of non-Muslims.

Not every non-Muslim has discriminatory beliefs on moderate Islam and it should not be implied that they do. When I view the cartoon I see it as boldly mocking radicalized terrorists, not moderate and peaceful practitioners of Islam. This should be applauded because despite a devastating terrorist attack, the editors of Charlie Hebdo are still attempting to practise freedom of the press.

Paci seems to have a black and white understanding of free speech – either you support Islam by segregating and distancing yourself from the cartoon without trying to understand it at all, or you are viciously attacking every contingent of the religion by supporting the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, which is patently absurd. We should be more concerned with trying to understand how moderate Islam is different from extremist Islam and trying to live in this world with all of its differences, intricacies, and complexities without murdering each other. Islam is not the victim here; the 12 murdered innocents are. Making fun of a small contingent of Islam is not akin to attacking the entire religion.

My defence of free speech has nothing to do with attacking Islam and intentionally provoking its adherents just because I can. We live in an increasingly secular society in which everything is fair game, whether Paci chooses to accept that or not. Why is it that Judaism and Christianity can be openly mocked and discredited while Islam is sacred? Charlie Hebdo, from my understanding, is kind of like South Park: they make fun of everything. We gain power and autonomy over radical terrorists by shoving their megalomaniacal ideas right back into their faces.

Despite what she says, Paci has no interest in truly advocating for free speech and is simply blowing a cartoon out of proportion without doing any intellectual reflection on the material, just like the extremists did with the cartoon that precipitated the attack. Between this article and the recent censorship of the film The Interview, I grow more in fear every day that we are nearing an Orwellian state.

Mark Kajetaniak