As a member of Pinewood’s journalism editorial staff, I can admit that most of our typical editorial meetings involve discussing article deadlines and publication dates. However, ask a member of “Charlie Hebdo”’s staff and they might say editorial meetings involve assault rifles and terrorist raids, at least on Jan. 7.
On this day, two masked terrorists stormed the editorial meeting at “Charlie Hebdo,” a satirical French newspaper company, protesting the recent publication of a satirical comic of the prophet Muhammad. Ceaselessly chanting “God is the greatest” in Arabic, these gunmen opened fire 50 times, assassinating 11 members of the newspaper’s team, and injuring 11 more.
The situation as a whole has prompted several different responses, but perhaps the most impressive retaliation was a demonstration of massive proportions across France.
On Jan. 11 and for a few days afterwards, over five million people joined the rally to protest this extreme act of violence, and many demonstrators adopted the slogan “Je Suis Charlie,” a French phrase that translates to “I Am Charlie,” in order to advocate for freedom of speech. Some might say that the cartoonists at “Charlie Hebdo” brought the situation upon themselves by publishing what could be considered an insensitive and inconsiderate cartoon. In fact, many believe that “Charlie Hebdo” had a history of Islamophobia, and that this particular cartoon crossed the line. However, one must take into account that “Charlie Hebdo” is satirical by nature, and the newspaper pokes fun at people (particularly politicians) of all ethnicities, races, and demographics. Thus, violence should not be the automatic response to the publication of any cartoon or article.
Another major source of controversy surrounding this ambiguous situation is what “Charlie Hebdo” should do moving forward. The cartoonists of this magazine are walking on eggshells right now, and the public is debating if publications should completely avoid publishing satirical issues on Islam going forward, for fear of future attack, or put the situation behind them and allow the company to continue to exercise its right to freedom
Personally, I feel that the best solution is to find middle ground. These cartoonists should not completely halt publication of articles relating to the Muslim community, because this shows that Charlie Hebdo is weak and easily submits to dissolute and disillusioned systems that use religion as a justification for ruthless violence. Instead, I believe that the company should not lose sight of its true purpose. After all, the company aims to poke fun at various groups in the spirit of tolerance, as opposed to publishing edgy works that could instigate volatile reactions.