By Peter Yeh

January 08, 2015

Yesterday was a tragic day where French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by three masked men, and resulted in 12 people dead. What makes this particularly disheartening is that the dead were like you and me. They weren’t part of any radical group, nor were they enemies of the French. They were writers, artists, editors, cartoonists, analysts, economists, maintenance workers, and police officers. It’s easy to get angry and upset at the killers, and for most of yesterday, that was what I did. This eventually led to my tirade against Islam, and then trickled down to my abhorrence of religion as a whole. But, hate is never the answer. It’s only a reaction, and after the debris has cleared, there are more than just 12 victims if we as a society cannot learn to forgive.

The acts are not representative of Islam. Muslims around the world showed sympathy for the victims of Charlie Hebdo, with high-ranking Clerics denouncing the act as terrorism. The three Muslim men have more in common with fundamentalist Christians and ISIS than they do with the Muslim shop owner down the street. This is because they are takfiri, a radical belief that any other version of Islam other than their own is blasphemy. For takfiri, there is no room for opinion, dialogue, dissent, or discussion because their is only one correct perspective – theirs. To be takfiri takes years of indoctrination from those that preach hate. So much in fact that all sense of comedy is lost, and leaves no room for satire, let alone criticism.

Charlie Hebdo was known for poking fun at Islam, and depicting their prophet Muhammad in an array of negative light. This undoubtedly upset all Muslims, but for the radical ones, it was a sign of war. They didn’t care that Charlie Hebdo was a satirical magazine and that the French magazine poked fun at everyone; not just every religion, but any “thing.” There were no color lines for Charlie Hebdo, and more than 99% of their articles, cartoons, and essays were about something other than Islam.

But, radicals don’t understand reason.

12 people lay dead because a few couldn’t take the jokes, but what is also at stake is free speech. Three masked men shooting up an office building due to a few cartoons has a tremendous chilling effect. Artists and writers are going to think twice before they “insult” Islam, and if this sentiment becomes the status quo, then the terrorists have won. Their action resulted in silencing the thoughts and opinions of millions, but that’s not what happened. Cartoonists and satirists from around the world rallied for the victims of Charlie Hebdo, and within hours, social media was abound with cartoons and comics. There was now a silver lining on this massive dark cloud.

Political cartoon by David Pope.

Hate is never the answer, and like a mentioned earlier there are more than 12 victims. Free speech, at a global scale, was in the cross-hairs. Good law-abiding Muslims will now face the wrath of their friends and neighbors for months to come. The callous acts of a few has jeopardized more than the 12 lives that were taken. As a society it is important to remember that “anger” is a response, not an action.

Peter Yeh