The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo magazine comes out today with the Prophet Muhammed himself on the cover holding a Je Suis Charlie sign under the headline “Tout est Pardonné” or, “All Is Forgiven.” . Distributors have ordered 3 million copies in anticipation of high sales, much more than their usual 60,000. I hope they sell out. Since I’m unsure of copyright issues, I won’t be posting the image but NY Magazine has one here.
Making fun of a person’s religion or putting out offensive material in general is not my cup of tea but there is a bigger point to this. As an equal opportunity offender, Charlie Hebdo makes fun of all religions, races, politicians and sexes, no one gets spared. Is some of it tasteless and inappropriate? Most definitely but by stretching the boundaries of free speech they strengthen it for the rest of us.
What happened in Paris last week was a tragic massacre but there is more to it than that. Topically you could say the killers were motivated by cartoons that made fun of their religion but the deeper reality is it was a direct assault on Western values and of our most cherished freedom, that of speaking your mind.
We are at a crossroads it seems on whether to take seriously the threat of Islamic extremism or to go on pushing lone wolf theories and “extreme workplace violence” euphemisms with our heads buried deep in the sand.
True freedom comes from having the choice to decline something not to your liking as opposed to someone in power making that choice for you. Charlie Hebdo publishes offensive cartoons because terrorists say they mustn’t and for that, they deserve our gratitude and a resolve to protect their freedom to continue on in safety.