Charlie or Not Charlie? #IamCharlie

shutterstock_141073798After the terrible attack on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, many people on social media are saying in support: ‘Je suis Charlie’.

Charlie Hebdo cartoonist, Renald ‘Luz’ Luzier escaped the massacre in which 12 were killed, because he was late for work. He wept as he told reporters, “The terrorists, they were kids: they drew just like we did, just like all children do. At one point, they lost their sense of humour. At one point, they lost the soul of their child which allowed them to look at the world with a certain distance.”

Despite radical interpretations, the Qu’ran preaches religious tolerance (109:1-6): “Say: O unbelievers! I do not serve that which you serve, Nor do you serve Him Whom I serve: Nor am I going to serve that which you serve, Nor are you going to serve Him Whom I serve: You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.”

Charlie Hebdo lives on, despite the terrorists’ attempts, still standing for freedom of expression and advocating tolerance. The cover of the “survivor’s edition” shows the prophet Mohammed, weeping, holding a sign saying: “Je suis Charlie” and “All is forgiven.” Luzier said, of his new cartoon, “I’m sorry we’ve drawn him yet again, but the Mohammad we’ve drawn is just a little guy who’s crying. He is much nicer than the one followed by the gunmen.”

I support the right to free speech. I also believe in practising that right responsibly and respectfully. There is great value in respecting other people’s opinions, even if they challenge us; even if we disagree. The right to disagree, however, does not mean the right to kill. While free speech means that I can say what I want, I do think about the impact of my words – and how others will feel, whether or not they share my belief system.

When I speak, I don’t want to be part of the problem; I want to be part of the solution. I want to help people. I want Islam, Christianity, Judaism and the whole of society to be open, inclusive, democratic and liberated. Free speech is fundamentally essential to that. So is respect. Both can exist together.

Freedom of speech is deeply and historically ingrained in French values. Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are personal, social and constitutional rights in a democratic world. They are words for us all to live by, in a tolerant world.

Some Muslims – including Imams – were offended by Charlie Hebo’s cartoons. After the tragedy, the same Imams were shocked by the violence, reminding people on TV that you should only fight words with words, and encouraging Muslims to attend the rally in memory of Charlie Hebdo.

If I am Charlie, and you are not – it’s all good.

Georges Petitjean

Founder, Arthur Coaching

Arthur trains individuals to become professional Young People Coaches. Our mission is to facilitate access to quality leadership coaching for young people.