International opinion: I am for freedom of speech, but I am not Charlie Hebdo

After the recent attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo claimed the lives of 12 people, outrage towards terror attacks and support of freedom of speech broke out across the world. Thousands of people marched in the streets of France while chanting, “I am Charlie Hebdo, I am Charlie Hebdo.” Social media had its share of public protest, as #IAmCharlie trended on Twitter and Instagram.

Everyone has the right to freedom of speech. But the question is, at what point does it become unacceptable, and should bigotry speech by a media outlet be considered free speech?

Charlie Hebdo encourages racism, Islamophobia, and disrespect towards other people under the guise of satire. I say this because, in one of the magazine’s editions, there was a cartoon that depicted Pope Francis saying French people are as dumb as “nègre,” a word some argue roughly translates to the N-word.

By Fickr user Gerry Lauzon

The racism did not end there. Charlie Hebdo portrayed a black prime minister as a monkey in another one of its cartoons. But the worst is when they portrayed the Prophet Mohammed several times in their cartoons, an act that is highly unacceptable to Muslims. This just goes to show their utmost lack of respect for other people’s beliefs, personal opinions, and what they consider sacred.

I am not against free speech, and I do not support violence in any form. However, as a journalist, I think there is some level of respect and maturity that one has to show.

Showing dissatisfaction for someone or a religion can be done in a non-offensive, diplomatic way. But why should a journalist even publish their hate for religions? What happened to the freedom to choose, and why should someone’s choice of religion be such a huge concern that they are made fun of? If Charlie Hebdo disagrees with other religions, there are other ways to criticize rather than resorting to the use of offensive words or degrading language. One cannot preach hate and expect to get love in return.

The Charlie Hebdo magazine published several offensive cartoons. They targeted Islam and usually made fun of Prophet Mohammed. Now, let us flip the situation. If a couple of Muslims had published a magazine targeting another religion, people would have called them extremists, and they might have been on the radar of French intelligence. But other people do it and it is called freedom of speech. Now, I am not saying that freedom of speech should not be allowed. I am just highlighting the hypocrisy in our society’s reactions when it comes to who is saying what.

By Flickr user Valentina Calà

A similar situation happened with the Sony hack. If North Korea had released a movie in which the president of the United States was killed in the end, the United States would have seen that as a threat against the president’s life and would have called for sanctions against North Korea. But the United States does it and it is perfectly fine.

Do not do unto others what you do not wish to be done to you. Yes, I have the right to freedom of speech, but when I call someone stupid or use offensive language against someone, I should be aware that there might be consequences. Freedom of speech is a right, but there are responsibilities associated with it and that freedom should not be abused.

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, the magazine released another edition with the Prophet Mohammed as the cover. Despite the rage of previous editions and the lives lost as result, the magazine continued to publish degrading cartoons and activated terror cells in Europe.

To those who are enthusiastically chanting “I am Charlie, I am Charlie,” ask yourself this question: Are you a racist, insensitive, narrow-minded individual who has no regard or respect for other people?