Author: Laure Ollivier-Minns
17th of January 2015
Dear Charlie Hebdo team
Following the recent turbulent events I felt compelled to write to you Charlie Hebdo. I share your values pro freedom of speech and in standing up against racism (lost in translation through your cartoons) and against the Front National. Living in UK, many perceive your cartoons as being racist but I believe that is not the intention.
I also understand satire and appreciate some of your cartoons that I find funny and witty, however there is some that I find over the top/bad taste and that I dislike. Then I don’t have to look at them and I don’t hold a grudge in any way accepting that you feel that you are doing your job.
It is clear that your work is not for everybody and it was originally for a French audience in a secular country where satire is part of their culture. There is nothing wrong with that when one makes the choice to buy what amuse them or chose to not buy it and not take it seriously.
I am a firm believer of freedom of speech which stays within the law and within moral responsibility.
In the aftermath of those atrocious attacks, in so many countries the past few days, due to terrible upset over a cartoon, please allow me to question this:
Could all this fuss be derived from a lack of moral responsibility or a lack of tolerance?
Since the attack of the 7th of January, Charlie Hebdo is now known worldwide therefore is out of its context being a satirical magazine from a secular country designed for a French audience. This attack was undeniably barbaric, shouldn’t have happen and you have all my sympathy for your lost ones.
Regarding the first publication of Charlie Hebdo, on the 14th of January since the attack, I am questioning whether you acted responsibly. Personally, this particular cartoon cover doesn’t bother me because I am not Muslim, but I am utterly shocked and saddened at the backlash that it has created. Many non-Muslims are upset, as well as the majority it seems of the Muslim community, who are clearly terribly offended seeing it as an insult to their beloved Prophet. They have the right to be offended, even if a lot of us don’t fully understand what all this fuss is about, especially when the message that the magazine cover wanted to convey was forgiveness.
It was clear in my mind that the defiance in that cartoon was addressed to the extremist fundamentalist terrorists responsible of the brutal murder of your colleagues and innocent others.
However you omitted the fact that because it is essentially satirical or ironic, satire is often misunderstood, misinterpreted and you omitted too it seems that Charlie Hebdo was leaving the cushy nest of France. So why be so clumsy when you knew it was going to be published in millions of copies in so many different languages?
Just as much as you would like people to understand your perspective and accept that you are ‘just doing your job’, could you understand the Muslim’s perspective and accept that they have values to NOT mess about with?
- There is already a considerable evidence of anti-Muslim sentiment in France.
- There is long standing tension between French and Muslim identity.
- There is a vast amount of ignorance regarding Muslims and extremist Islamists. And no, obviously we can’t put them in the same basket.
But the reality is that too many people:
- Confuse satire with insult.
- Confuse satire with racism and blasphemy.
- Confuse Muslims (whose religion is peaceful) with extremists fundamentalist Islamic driven by hate and violence. I should think that the Muslim community regard those extremists as twisted murderers just as much as we do and condemn those attacks.
- Are confused with the meaning of ‘je suis Charlie’. To me it remains meaning: I am anybody seeking unity against extremist’s acts of violence and promote freedom of speech (within legal obligation and moral responsibilities).
Would it not have been more effective, more to the point and far less harmful, to make the cover with the same message but instead of Muhammad you had represented an extremist-fundamentalist- Islamist-terrorist instead? The message you wanted to convey would have been the same and in my view a lot more laughable.
I can see that you could be accused of being clumsy, vulgar, childlike, controversial and “coquin” in your agenda to provoke in a satirical context but I would not go as far as saying that you are cruel with a purpose to hurt.
As well as defiance you wanted to create laughter by this controversial front cover published so widely but it resulted in monumental offence worldwide, spread hate and shed blood. Surely this wasn’t your intention?
This is polluting your reputation and inflaming the situation that cost so many lives due to so many attacks in several countries in retaliation and anger. And yes of a double standard too. It marginalises Muslim communities and creates more racism. Muslims and Jewish communities have been attacked and French establishments too are being attacked in several countries. All in retaliation over a cartoon defending freedom of speech?
Isn’t it this all so ironic as well as tragic when Charlie Hebdo is against racism and promotes humour?
What about those values?
Now that Charlie Hebdo is out (better known worldwide) and no longer existing for just the French people in a secular country, could you please show more respect towards humans who have ferocious values towards their Prophet Muhammad? I have seen on TV distraught Muslim women crying out that the Prophet is so sacred to them that they would even give their children’s life for him. To us Westerners, this might seem as a completely ‘bonkers notion’ but that is their belief. Muhammad is sacred to them. Please respect the fact that it is so to them and respect their freedom of speech in claiming so. I am imploring you to respect those people as Humans, with different belief, in the light that this has led to more human tragedy. Have we not learnt enough from past history?
Yes there is a limit to freedom of speech, legal and moral.
I have been defending you guys the past few days for the following reasons:
- I believe that you are not malicious people and that you didn’t foresee fully this terrible backlash.
- It was so apparent that people got the wrong end of the stick. Not familiar with your magazine, many portrayed you as racist when in fact you stand against racism. You make a mockery of it all as well as all religions and that’s your job.
- I believe too that your intention was to stand up to the extremists that have caused so much harm to you personally and to a very wide population.
The 11th of January rally against extremism and pro freedom of speech showed a great unity towards those values that clearly are shared by many. If we want those values to stand wouldn’t it be honourable of you to apologise for the offence caused toward Muslims and Islam? So many people have been killed over this and how much more deplorable retaliation are to come?
This level of hate and violence escalating so rapidly over this in so many countries due to misunderstanding, misinterpretation and different cultures, is alarming and has to come to an end. This huge fuss is alarmingly. Will you please help?
If your excuse is that so many people ‘do not get satire’ and do not get what Charlie Hebdo stands for, due to ignorance of who you are; then please don’t remain ignorant of what the Prophet Muhammad represent to a vast population and show more sensitivity. Please be more tolerant towards Islam’s sacred belief as you would like Muslims to be more tolerant towards your cartoons.
All these issues have made me very uncomfortable…as to so many people around me. Help us all worldwide to be less fearful. Let’s not forget the unity we all need to stand against extremist terrorists. Let’s not give them what they want and let’s find hope out of the chaos they created.
It is more tolerance and compassion from all parties that the world needs, which would lead to a better understanding and respect of different values and cultures, helping to guide us all towards acceptance and forgiveness.
“Je suis qui?”- (Who am I?)
(About me): I don’t follow nor practice any religion but the one I feel the closest to is the philosophy of Buddhism as I believe in compassion. I am French, I grew up in France. I have been an UK resident for many years, with an English husband and English children. I am a campaigner for many worthy causes. I am also an artist.