Before the atrocious explosions that targeted Charlie Hebdo last year, there were many people outside of Paris who hadn’t heard of this satirical newspaper. But the terrorist attack that resulted in the deaths of 11 people dealt a harsh blow to those who believe that freedom of expression is a basic human right. The murder of Charlie Hebdo journalists, which the terrorists carried out in cold blood, raised a shock in all modern societies, prompting their leaders to rally in Paris in solidarity with the French people in condemning the attack against freedom of expression. It was also the reason for issuing the hashtag “I am Charlie” (#JeSuisCharlie), in a front of global attention; many Muslims used it to reconfirm the reality that it is impossible for these monsters to represent the point of view of a real Muslim in any way.
After the newspaper experienced this dreadful ordeal, it published the next issue on time. In solidarity with the newspaper, the people who hadn’t heard of it before stood with Charlie Hebdo: Those who do not agree with their views nor find their comics funny were buying the issue. They sold millions of copies of the issue following the attack on the newspaper. Previously its sales had never exceeded 60,000.
Last week, talk about the newspaper Charlie Hebdo was renewed in the news once again, but this time, it wasn’t considered a symbol of freedom of expression. Instead, it was an example of racism disguised as art. After German women in Cologne experienced sexual harassment on New Year’s Day at the hand of immigrants, Charlie Hebdo published a caricature that depicted the body of the Syrian immigrant boy Aylan Kurdi (3 years old). The waves swept his body onto a Turkish beach after the boat [he was traveling in] sank, along with those on board who were seeking asylum. In the comic, Aylan grows up with the face of a monkey, and he becomes the rapist who attacked the German women.
The picture of little Aylan lying dead, thrown on the Turkish beach, shocked the international conscience to the core, embodying the absolute horror of which human greed and lust for power are capable. While the world was trying to absorb the terrible fate of this child, the artists of Charlie Hebdo thought they would be “funny” by using this small, beautiful, distinctly innocent child in a racist work that was disguised as art and distorted little Aylan. Not surprisingly, social media soon ignited with surprised reactions about this cruel and racist caricature that’s unable to be considered anything but a piece of propaganda promoting hatred that shouldn’t have a place in the world in which we live today.
I wasn’t surprised to see this filth that came from the Charlie Hebdo newspaper, and I really didn’t expect anything less than that. As I said, most people hadn’t heard of Charlie Hebdo before the attacks, and following the attacks, they didn’t have knowledge of their unimaginable vileness. The work that Charlie Hebdo publishes doesn’t differ from black propaganda or religious extremist propaganda, which falsifies any idea one has of “the other” and provokes discrimination. This is happening at a time when the United States government began removing racist expressions from great literary works and came under pressure for taking down statues of righteous figures in American history for their involvement in the slave trade. That is because the U.S. Constitution, which protects freedom of expression, also limits this freedom.
Despite the horror that haunted me from the brutality of the attacks against Charlie Hebdo and the strong fear of losing freedoms of the press, I never once said, “I am Charlie” … Let’s face it, neither you nor I are Charlie. Neither you nor I could enter a room some day and call a person who is different from us a monkey. And we won’t sit with a person of a different religion and humiliate their religious views and beliefs. And we won’t at all consider the lifeless body of a child as a joke that provokes laughter.
I will never say “I am Charlie Hebdo” because I am not Charlie and never will be.