There is not a “Charlie’s club” – Awareness of division created over a complex matter.

Author: Laure Ollivier-Minns

– “Je suis Charlie” versus “Je ne suis pas Charlie” –

Lets’ be aware of the misguided terminology used which has a different meaning to people. Aren’t those two terms (I’m Charlie/I’m not Charlie) misinterpreted when in fact we could be sharing the same values?

Intolerance saying-Gandhi

DIVISION is created when in fact we seek UNITY

“You have your way, I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it doesn’t exist.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

 It appears that, all over the web, there is so much misunderstanding,  confusion and misinterpretation over such terms that make a statement ‘je suis Charlie’ or ‘je ne suis pas Charlie’. This is why I avoid using either of these terms. The world seems to be overwhelmed by them and in my view it generates irritation, more confusion and more division. Despite the outpouring of sympathy following the Paris attack on the 7th of January, aren’t people getting saturated by the topic of Charlie Hebdo, especially in the midst of other atrocities happening worldwide at the same time?

Satire on C.H.Photo caption: Clever satire…although I would have added Nigeria on that globe (in light of the 2000 people massacred earlier this month and the persecution towards the French more recently). More countries could be added but I know we can’t fit them all in! I should think that Charlie Hebdo’s team would see the irony/wit/humour in this drawing, like I do, even though the reality of the situation is actually very tragic. That’s what satire does. It draws attention to a particular and wider issue in society. (Visual impact bringing awareness, useful for those who don’t have time to read articles)!

To continue (and answer the question)… Saturated? To some of you Charlie Hebdo might be ‘last week’s news’ but I am interested and I ask myself many questions. So I will carry on keeping an eye on this ‘human behaviour’ (or not so very humanlike); reading on what’s happening, absorbing the consequences (still not digesting them) and possibly rambling on about it. This concerns all of us. This concerns our future.

The issue over those terms, ’whether to be or not to be Charlie’ is not black and white because it is hugely complex.

Misguidance feeds division

I think people can get easily put off by such labels and article-titles because it makes a statement of pro Charlie Hebdo or anti-Charlie Hebdo. I don’t think this is healthy and beneficial for either party as they can miss out on some very valid and constructive points expressed by either of them.

Those two terms have created two camps and one could be strongly put off to read what the other one is saying which is…

 completely defeating the object!


Irresponsible newspaper vs. responsible newspaper

Photo Caption: “L’invention de l’humour” (humour invention) with a caveman holding oil and fire. Suggesting “mettre de l’huile dans le feu” (add fuel to the flame/intensify conflict)

To be constructive, wouldn’t we want the ‘je suis Charlie’ people to hear out what the ‘je ne suis pas Charlie’ people have to say and equally vice versa?

Almost half of those in France believe cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad (like those printed by satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo) should not be published, a recent poll said on the 18th of January; with a similar number in favour of ‘limitations’ on free speech; announced France 24.

Since the march in Paris on the 11th of January, has the meaning of ‘Je suis Charlie’ changed, taken a new dimension?

I believe it has. And I think it would be more effective to use the hashtag Charlie Hebdo to discuss its topic.

Since the march in Paris ‘Je suis Charlie’, to me, it meant and still basically means two things:

I am anti barbaric action of extremist-fundamentalist-terrorist-radicalization


I am pro freedom of speech, pro freedom of expression, pro freedom of thoughts…

The way I see it, this is what the millions of French people marching in Paris on the 11th of January represented…as well as a tribute to the lost lives.

On the subject of terminology, the term extremism is vastly used. Is it the right term to use on its own? Wikipedia says ‘Extremism (represented on both sides of the political spectrum in specific reference to Islamic terrorism) is an ideology (particularly in politics or religion). Extremism is considered to be far outside the mainstream attitudes of a society or to violate common moral standards…’

I thought it to be clearer (in what I stand against) to add the word radicalization which ‘adopts increasingly extreme political, social, or religious ideals and aspirations that reject or undermine contemporary ideas and expressions of freedom of choice’. Again there is that nuance; radicalization sounds a lot more extreme because it attack our freedom of choice.

People referring to ‘terrorists’, related to this topic, mean radical extremist fundamentalists. Often used in short: ‘extremist’ or ‘fundamentalist’. The term ‘terrorist’ can be frowned upon because it is too loaded.

Unfortunately, since the 11th of January we’ve seen, and we continue to see, a lot of backlash, retaliation and more violence. And not just against the Muslims and Jews (may I add). Innocent French people (especially outside France) are attacked, French establishments are targeted, French residents abroad and humanitarian workers are being persecuted…

Let’s hope this is a temporary reaction.

Emotion over intelligence (Joseph Antony's photo) Joseph Antony’s photo 

It appears that ‘Je suis Charlie’ and ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’ (those two camps that have been created) are born over the issue of defining – what do we hear by freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of expression?

Many of us have a different opinion on those terms. Some are passionate about those terms, some use them loosely and other use them as an excuse for discord, racism and violence.

How far can it go? We fiercely defend those values but do we appreciate in which context and which perspective they are displayed? Is there a line to draw, a limit to this kind of freedom?

A limit to freedom doesn’t sound right to our ears, us Westerners.

Let’s not omit the nuance…

I believe in freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of expression WITHIN LEGAL OBLIGATION AND MORAL RESPONSIBILITY.

That’s the nuance!

The vast amount of violence worldwide, following the publication of Charlie Hebdo’s first front cover, after the Paris attack, demonstrates well to me, that this nuance ‘within moral responsibility’ can’t possibly have been fully considered… Yet so many claim that it has! Was people’s violent reaction against it because of what they thought it was rather than what it was? Isn’t it that, one of Charlie Hebdo’s job (as a satire magazine), is to denounce the violence, making it stand out, ridicule it even; show off its absurdity in order to bring awareness to violence in our society? Exposing its danger.

Like most of us, I am shocked, I am bewildered; I am distraught and outraged at all these violent and tragic recent events, in so many countries, generated over clashes of culture, values, beliefs and prejudice. Attacks anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, and anti-French attacks too (the latter far less publicised it seems). I condemn all those retaliations. I abhor these prejudices. And I feel empathy and compassion for the families, of all background, race, ethnicity and religion who have lost their loved ones. Can’t we learn to suffer together?

To me, it is clear that those terms on FREEDOM of speech/thought/expression bear responsibilities and have consequences.

This is what I was questioning on my last blog post in my letter to Charlie Hebdo:

Neither God, nor Master – “Ni Dieu, ni Maitre”

A quick note on Blasphemy vs. Satire: To not confuse satire with blasphemy and make the distinction between those two words, in my view, is important because satire has a greater purpose. Yet, many claim that satire is allowed to be blasphemous…

 “BLASPHEMY is the act of insulting or showing contempt toward something considered sacred or inviolable. Although SATIRE is usually meant to be humorous, its greater purpose is often constructive social criticism, using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues in society”. And “because it is essentially ironic or sarcastic, satire is often misunderstood.”(From Wikipedia)

I believe Satire has a role in society in constructive social criticism using wit as a weapon and as a tool to draw attention to both particular and wider issues. It defies prejudice.

“Ni Dieu, ni Maitre” as Olivier Tonneau cleverly explained:

I join Olivier Tonneau in his efforts to re adjust the balance as so much gibberish has spread across the web! A lot of things about France have been deformed and misused. Let’s not get the wrong end of the stick and remember who the enemy is!

We don’t need further division over misunderstanding, misinterpretation, clashes over culture, values, beliefs and prejudice; we need unity against extremist-fundamentalist-radicalization who are the ones that create this division and complete chaos.…is what I’ve been banging on about!

Olivier Tonneau also tries to bring more clarity on the term laïcité very difficult to define as the word secular doesn’t quite cover it. The value of laïcité only exists in France it seems therefore quite difficult for outsiders to grasp and appreciate its full concept.

Has Charlie Hebdo been on the borderline of blasphemy with their front cover of the Prophet Muhammad published so widely? In which I explained the context, in my last blog post; a key factor. I hear the vast majority of Muslims calling it blasphemy and others strongly feel that if falls under what satire represent. To which extent satire is allowed to be blasphemous? By whom is it perceived to be blasphemous? I might not regard it to be blasphemous (accepting it in its satire context) but I accept that others (some Muslims for instance) do! How many know that Charlie Hebdo is actually pro Muslim and anti-Islamist fundamentalist? The perception of pro Muslim and anti-racism might have been missed outside its context and this is what I am trying to point out; how it is perceived by others and exposing the danger of its misunderstanding outside France.

Following this, I disagree with misguided statements that I have seen, such as “If you don’t agree with what Charlie Hebdo said, the terrorists win”. Charlie Hebdo is not an isolated case. Charlie Hebdo doesn’t represent France. And it is not well known enough to be understood.

It is true that what is being said: “Nobody has the right to not be offended”. So more tolerance and respect is called for? How can that be achieved when both, Charlie Hebdo and Muslims (generally speaking), seem so entrenched in their ideas/beliefs? One party imploring for more tolerance over their cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad – and the other party demanding respect over their sacred Prophet, crying out blasphemy. Is it? And is it unreasonable? In my opinion, it is a matter of opinion.

Freedom of choice?

In France, one made the choice to look at a Charlie Hebdo cartoon or not, but once it has been exposed worldwide, it’s a different matter. In those so called developing countries, those who are genuinely offended (and I’m not implying that they all were), those who had no knowledge of ‘it’ whatsoever and had this cartoon shoved in their faces…it wasn’t a question of choice for them.

Discord over labels

Coming back to those terms, je suis or je ne suis pas, it strongly appears that sometimes there is a discord over the terminology used when in fact we actually agree on the essence of our beliefs.

It is apparent that we agree on one part of the ‘je suis Charlie’, meaning what we are against: radical extremist – (anti-terrorism’- in simple term commonly used-) but what about the other part, on the freedom issue?

I think that ‘Je suis Charlie’ or ‘Je ne suis pas Charlie’ is no longer defined adequately because people are now arguing over this nuance ‘within moral responsibility’; and that doesn’t mean censure, that doesn’t mean that satire shouldn’t continue. The discord over this part on ‘what-je-suis-Charlie-means’ on freedom of speech… (within moral responsibility), refrains us to concentrate on the other part of the meaning of the original term ‘je suis Charlie’.This second meaning (displayed in huge solidarity at the Paris march and widely abroad), the one we appear to agree on, is being…making a stand against extremist fundamentalist terrorists/ radicalization – against barbaric violence.

And I don’t think, in my humble opinion, that a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad has achieved and will achieve that and I don’t see the point to add more fuel to the fire.

Yet…(alala!) from many of the French perspective, it strongly seems that it was crucial to precisely represent a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad; not to hurt Muslims (as in, people who practice this religion), but to fiercely defend their French values and culture as well as making a stand against radical extremist Islamist fundamentalists.

What about the consequences of retaliations with further violence?

Some people argue that it is a ‘necessary consequence of freedom of expression that people might be offended by what you express’.

Are we still trying to get our head around that? Sitting on my island, I’m still attempting to grasp both perspectives of the ‘je suis…’ and the ‘je ne suis pas’… There is a lot to take on board…

Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better… And like a Divine Angel told me: It has to get worse sometimes before it gets better, because what was initiated or experienced earlier was not enough; like the intensity was insufficient to achieve the end result of learning that particular point or issue!

Understanding is acceptance. Call for better communication, tolerance and respect from all parties involved.

Let’s reclaim this solidarity as in fact we seek UNITY towards the same goal.

Mahatma Gandhi had it spot on: “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding”.

Laure Ollivier-Minns


2 thoughts on “There is not a “Charlie’s club” – Awareness of division created over a complex matter.

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