I saw my sister, Karen, the other day, and she shared some of her thoughts with me about the entire Charlie Hebdo massacre. Initially both of us had tremendous sympathy for the editor, Stephane Charbonnier, and the other members of the staff that were murdered. I even was going to write about their heroism for standing up to their beliefs, even in the face of repeated death threats.
But then I researched and learned that Charbonnier was an avowed atheist, who hated any kind of religion, and used his magazine to mock all faiths. Charbonnier went beyond mocking, by ridiculing both Mohammed and Jesus in graphic, disgusting, pornographic images. Muslims believe publishing images of Mohammed is offensive, so why in the world would the editor purposely publish such incendiary images. But Charbonnier didn’t just attack Muslims; he was equally insulting to Christians and Jews.
Journalists carry a lot of weight and can influence millions of people; freedom of press is a sacred responsibility capable of inciting violence, as well as peace. The staff of Charlie Hebdo allowed their distaste for religion to slant their judgment. As my sister wrote “If Hebdo’s response to Muslim terrorism had taken a different tact, maybe it could have fostered some measure of positive change in this world of hate.”
Karen continues “real satire, by definition, is a ‘way of using humor to show that someone is foolish, weak or bad, and to show weakness or negative qualities of a person, government, society’. Having previously received death threats, the staff could have anticipated the response these publications would provoke.”
“Freedom of speech can be used to belittle, demean, criticize, condemn, defame, hurt or destroy…but to what purpose…more destruction? It is the peoples’ right according to American’s belief culture, and the very first amendment of our constitution.”
But what if the writers of this magazine had responded differently by nudging millions of peaceful Muslims to stand up and condemn terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda and Hezbollah and other terrorist groups. Instead, this magazine viciously attacked their sacred beliefs by printing offensive and inflammatory pictures designed to provoke more hatred and pain.
Freedom of speech is precious, and should be used to bring truth into a world blinded by sin; instead it seems to be a weapon used to further one’s own agenda. The purpose of journalism used to be to expose lies and corruption in our culture; now the main purpose seems to be for showing contempt for those whose beliefs are different.
Every person on this planet can choose to be a catalyst for fostering peace and improving society, or they can condemn, jeer and taunt, inciting antagonism and rage. Consider carefully the tremendous impact your words can have on others.
Journalist Stuart Muszynski, from the Huffington Post, got it right in his article, when he said “Let me be clear — I support free speech. I support Charlie Hebdo and the premise that freedom of speech is a fundamental right of democracy. But I also support respect and its role as a fundamental ingredient of civility.” He went on to say “Without being framed within a context of respect, it can inflame sentiments, fuel emotions, and hurt the psyche and mind”.
Ponder Jesus’ words in 2nd Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, ‘Let there be light in the darkness’, has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.”, and choose today whether you are bringing darkness or light…
Je Suis Charlie, but Can We Have a World of Respect?