Je suis Charlie- the sentence on everyone’s lips after the awful attacks in Paris. While everyone is quick to throw the phrase around, there have been questions over whether the decision of Charlie Hebdo to again portray the prophet Mohammed on the front cover of the first edition of the aftermath was a sensible move.
There can be no denial that the support for liberty is clear, but what can posting a picture of ‘Je Suis Charlie’ on social media really do? None of us are Charlie, and very few of us will know what it feels like to have relatives that have died at the hands of mass murderers. Displaying the three words will not help to fight extremism, or bring back people who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom. Despite this, what the slogan does do is show terrorists that people are not scared of the threats they make.
The new depiction of Mohammed has drawn attention from all corners of the earth, with the Pope showing concern for the humiliation of religions, the Iranian prime minister finding it insulting, and the Australian prime minister saying that he rather likes it. However, how far would we go to support freedom of speech? If the shoe were on the other foot and a fundamentalist Muslim magazine had posted a picture of Jesus that belittled the most prominent religion in Europe, how would Christians react? Obviously not in the same way as fundamentalists, but it is likely that people would question whether it should have been published.
Yet if offence were a reason to cause violence then there would be no people left on the planet. Our own prime minister in Great Britain is right in saying that after freedom of expression has been attacked in such a brutal way by terrorism, people must fight for what they believe in and show a united front at a time that has shaken the world.
[Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official view of Reading University Conservative Association or any affiliated institution]