20 January 2015

By Lauren E. White

Je Suis Charlie

Last week prompted great discussion over the world’s latest religious catastrophes – the terrorist attacks in Paris.

As someone who is acquainted with the journalism profession, the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office seemed far too close to home to me as it did many others.

Many see journalism as a sleazy and sneaky profession, which in some instances is the case. However, no matter how anyone might feel about journalists, this horrific attack is unacceptable – and the reaction would be exactly the same if it were a hospital or a school that was the target of religious extremist. Journalists have the right, just like everyone else, to express themselves and to be creative. We all have freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

I  understand that many Muslims find the work of the Charlie Hebdo magazine highly offensive and disrespectful. The satirical French publication took aim at the Muslim prophet and basically mocked their religion. That is fair enough. Personally, I would not have chosen to buy the Charlie Hebdo magazine for that reason – because I am aware it is offensive to some; and to them religion is their lifeline. Similar to those people who live for their job, or for their children – people with strong religious beliefs are passionate people.

Yet, however much passion they have  for their religion, that shouldn’t stop anyone from saying what they want. Freedom of speech, and freedom in general, is something absolutely crucial to the society we live in today. We have to encourage everyone to share their thoughts, we have to encourage the young and the old to speak out, to use their voice. We cannot live in a world of fear where we worry about offending someone based on whatever comes out of our mouths, or, in this case, our hands.

You have to ask yourself what kind of impression you are setting by denying freedom of speech. What kind of example are you setting by going against what millions are continuously fighting  and dying for? What kind of example are we setting?

We can’t live in fear. Just because someone chooses to be a part of a religion doesn’t mean everyone else has to support their rules and their beliefs as well. Of course, it would be great if everyone would respect the beliefs of religion, but that isn’t life. Freedom of expression is vital, it is sometimes the only honest thing we have left in the world. Religion is a choice – freedom should not become like religion.

Through all of the debating and the attacks, the protests and the anger, remember that the pen will always be more powerful than the sword.

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