Finding the Grey in Charlie Hebdo

Finding the Grey in Charlie Hebdo

It’s been quite a turbulent 2014 and it seems that the views of yesteryear are still widely and strongly held in this fresh new year of 2015. There have been a number of issues plaguing our global consciousness, as there always has been and will be, it seems the world will never stop finding issues or that one common enemy to rally against, though unlike before we have been growing into what seems like an increasingly polarized society, where there is either hyper positive or hyper negative and no real middle ground, and one would say much like the events of our day to day lives the truth nearly always lies somewhere in that grey area, that foggy middle ground, though many would say including the writer of this said article that it is much more preferable to an all mighty undeniable propaganda scheme, by given two such poles of opinion, it is then at least possible to find out what the reality of a situation is, though we may never find an ultimate truth, to be blunt it is quite better than nothing.

One such example of our growing need to either be on one extreme negative or positive side to a story or an event, particularly those that touch on the hearts of minds of many. The highlight of this such behaviour in this New Year seems to be the Charlie Hebdo Massacre that occurred on January 7th 2015

The general reaction from the west it seemed that these attacks were an attack on free speech, the lines were drawn from day one, with liberal and anti-racist groups as well as the greater Muslim community itself stating that such an attack was against Islam, un-Islamic and misrepresented the self-proclaimed religion of peace Islam. Though as usual there was a polar opposite to this, those claiming that this in of itself was hard evidence that the faith and those who followed it were against liberty, freedom of speech and were obviously against any form of tolerance towards the practices of the now very liberal and some would argue very godless west.

Though alas to every story there is a grey, a middle ground that our media never seems to cover, its focus is always partisan, you are either for or against, them or us. The greater views were there is no blame to Islamic beliefs at all, or there is 100% blame on the greater Islamic community.

To really look at this situation which as much unbiased pretence that one can, the main points of the whole situation must be looked at keenly and with a level head. The main argument seems to be for freedom of speech itself, now that in of itself is quite the murky topic. In an Australian context the writings of Charlie Hebdo would not be permissible under our various anti hate speech laws, as the magazine itself not only sought to ridicule, offend, insult and satirise the cultures of Muslims, but also those prominently of the Jews and Catholics, by the dictionary defined meaning of the term hate speech (“Hate speech is speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.”) it seems that Charlie Hebdo was quite clearly a magazine printing pure hate speech, though when speaking in terms of purist freedom of speech it could be conceded that irrelevant of its content, freedom of speech entails the right to ridicule and insult another person based on well, nearly anything.

Though it seems as usual the media took this view of anything goes to a ridiculous extreme as various social commentators and news outlets proclaimed that those who did not show the drawings of the Muslim prophet that sparked all this violence as “cowards” and “letting the terrorists win” as mainstream outlets such as CNN, CBC and New York Times came under fire for not printing the images. It may be that the general media unaware in all the excitement of the juicy news forgot that they themselves were beginning to infringe on the right of freedom of speech, as shocking as it may sound there are many news providers that would simply not want to publish such images, not out of cowardice, or support of the censoring of freedom of speech but out of human decency?

It seems that the concept of human decency is one that has been forgotten in this frenzy of grief and shock towards such brutal events. The case may be that such news outlets didn’t publish these images as they may just be flat out racist, insensitive and distasteful to a point where they deemed it to be something they didn’t wish to publish, in other words if Charlie Hebdo had the right to publish what they did then the opposite of being able to refuse to publish material that one finds distasteful should obviously come with it. Though it seemed that the greater social outcry was one of a chilling “publish what we want you to publish or you’re supporting terrorists” which on the surface level may seem absurd and childish, but on deeper fundamental levels is quite the effective form of media control in and of itself.

Many parallels and hypocrisies can be drawn from this mess of a media occurrence that arose from the tragic deaths of those French satirists at Charlie Hebdo. If a magazine was running distasteful comics of let’s say the holocaust, not only would it be found distasteful and wrong but the reception it would receive would be far from the near saint status the works of Charlie Hebdo have received and some would say without much research into what the magazine truly represented.

The trick it seems to this writer in particular is that the Muslim Community must also look into the core values and practices that are damaged in such events and address them individually in order to assure that the middle ground to a story is heard. Though I myself cannot speak for an entire faith, it is up to the community to promote what they collectively and with a majority think on the core principles under attack in crisis like these. The media it seems simply says that the violence is condemned by mosques and the greater Muslim faith and that Islam itself is a great religion of peace. Though much like many other religions it cannot simply portray itself as a puritan peaceful religion, all Abrahamic religions formulate stories based on war and violence for a greater moral point or story, and much like morality this often sways through different interpretations. Thus it could be said that it is the Muslim Communities responsibility to state where it is in that moral spectrum, much like Christianity and Judaism have somewhat been forced to do, seldom do you see the announcement of a newly announced Christian Crusade, other than perhaps the one or two lonely out of touch men who still live in the 17th century. Though I myself do not know the general views of the Muslim community, to this tragedy in particular it must be said whether modern day Muslims do support freedom of speech and to what degree? What place do some of the more out dated sharia laws have in the modern day society? It seems that until these details are said and done, Islam will remain either a pure negative or spotless positive, where in reality a humanised middle grounded and logical approach would seem to balance out the radical views and may hypothetically garner more peaceful co-existence rather than blatantly ignorant racism.

Until then it seems that the media and with it the general public of most western nations will be flung between the two drastically different poles of opinion, one describing a religion which has zero liability and one which bears all of it. Though on a final note it can be said that one part of the Charlie Habdo story that was not widely publicised was the death of a Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim, a French national, and one who laid down his life, for the right for another to ridicule, insult and belittle his culture, religion and people, a story that seems to be one of the least publicised in western countries but seemingly one of the more human ones.

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