EDITORIAL: We are Charlie

Ten French journalists and staffers of Charlie Hebdo were killed, along with two police officers in an Islamist attack described by French President Francois Hollande as barbaric. The alleged crime of the weekly satirical Charlie Hebdo was the repeated lampoon of the Prophet Mohammed, the derision of what to Catholics is, the equivalent of Jesus Christ.

The depictions of the Muslim icon were painted as offensive, inflammatory, provocative, and racist. They were an alleged abuse of the freedom of expression because they denigrated and ridiculed what to others was sacred. The satirical illustrations of Islam and Mohammed were interpreted as acts of sacrilege. This is what happens when extremists and terrorists hijack religion to justify their unjustifiable acts.

Muslims around the world also reacted to the act of violence against Charlie Hebdo, using the hashtag #NotInMyName and #NotInOurName. This is not Islam, they said. Terrorists who sow fear and terror cannot claim to represent Muslims and Islam, for Mohammed preaches neither violence nor terrorism.

On Twitter, Muslims also used #JeSuisAhmed to show how they, like the cop brutally shot by the terrorists, can die defending Charlie Hebdo’s right to disrespect and ridicule their faith. They understood and appreciated the exercise of the freedom of expression.

In 2011, Filipino Catholics themselves reacted very strongly to mixed media artist Mideo Cruz’s exhibit, Poleteismo, at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. He was accused of obscenity after displaying, among others, a movable wooden phallus on the same wall as Jesus Christ and putting photos of Christ and Mary alongside condoms. Cruz apologized to those he hurt and offended by his views, but he told the media, providing space for a contrarian voice is necessary for a mature society.

In many ways, journalists are also artists. They create, agitate, provoke, challenge the status quo, stir discomfort and anger, hold up a mirror to reflect society’s values and inanities, and even influence thought and action.

They disturb the peace without resorting to violence and are at the receiving end of suits, slanderous and libelous tirades. They are also at the receiving end of guns and bullets, and of late, more barbaric acts like beheadings. They are expected to take what they dish out, except that they never aim and shoot guns with bullets or use blades and knives that slash and kill, like terrorists do.

Should the media publish or blur and pixelate the satirical cartoons created by Charlie Hebdo? Should we add fuel to the fire, fight for freedom of expression, or calibrate and seek not to offend further and save more lives? There can be endless and heated debates about liberalism and conservatism, blasphemy and the right to free speech, the right to self-expression and the right to worship, even the right to life.

In an act of defiance, a surviving columnist of Charlie Hebdo announced that a million copies of the paper would be published Wednesday next week to show that “stupidity will not win.” Inspired by cartoon character Charlie Brown of comic strip Peanuts, Charlie Hebdo cannot be killed or silenced by fundamentalists.

A vibrant democracy lives and thrives with a plurality of voices. When the voices begin to sound the same or become tamed, more so muted, the very environment journalists need to do their jobs well becomes threatened. If Charlie Hebdo, which grieves and suffers from fear, dares to continue to publish, how can the less threatened media with vastly more resources not do the same and publish their work?

We stand not only with the brutally killed journalists of Charlie Hebdo, but with Muslims around the world too, threatened by extremists who distort the values of their faith and make their lives more difficult each and every time attacks are made in the name of Islam.

We turn our logo black and request you to join us in this simple act of rejecting violence that seeks to divide, intimidate, and silence. – Rappler.com