Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Je Suis.......

It is difficult to put thoughts into words about the terrorist attacks in France last week. Shock. Sadness. Fear. Relief when it was finally brought to an end. But I wonder if it really will ever end.

The extremists who carry out vile and barbaric terrorist acts like this, doing so in the name of their religion, are simply evil. But I don't think their religion is the problem. There are millions of Muslims around the world who are happy to live side by side with people of other or no faith. Terrorism is not about a religion. It is about terror.

I don't know how many religions there are in the world. There are many. And there will be followers of each of those religions who believe their's is the one everyone should follow. But there are also sometimes extremists within various religions, who take their beliefs to another level. They hate, injure and kill in the name of their religion. But, as was the case last week, other people of that same belief, condemn their actions.

The attack on the Charlie Hebdo office apparently came about as the satirical magazine had repeatedly published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The cartoons often feature other religions too. They don't just mock Muslims. However, the Islamic extremists chose to use those cartoons as a reason for their actions last week. People around the world were shocked, saddened and angered not only at the cruel loss of life, but also because the attack was thought to be an attack on free speech.

This is where I have a problem.

Everyone wants free speech....I do too....but surely a line must be drawn somewhere? If we intentionally hurt or offend people, is it ok simply because we believe we should all have free speech?

A few words, a cartoon, a joke which may make some people laugh, but at the same time, may hurt and offend someone else. A cartoon mocking people's religion obviously offended people. I am in no way condoning the actions of those terrorists. Terrorists use things like that as an excuse for what they do. But is it really ok to offend people so publicly?

I don't think so.

Haven't we moved on to an age when we should think and consider other people's feelings more?

Shouldn't free speech be put to better use than mocking certain people or groups in society.

We will never all agree with each other. But can't we express opinions in a way which does not offend people? It is ok to not share people's beliefs, but surely it is not ok to be offensive to them about it.

I saw some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons online. And I have to say I found them offensive. I was not offended because of religious beliefs. I was offended simply because I found most of them to be downright disgusting and in very bad taste. They have printed a record amount of copies of this week's edition. They normally print 60,000 copies. Today 5 million copies were printed, in various languages, including Arabic. People queued up to buy this edition, and most shops sold out very quickly. Handwritten signs were put up outside newsagents in France to let people know that there was 'No more Charlie'.  I can't help but wish there really was no more Charlie.

Their front cover is a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad holding a sign saying, "Je suis Charlie", with the headline All is Forgiven. They say that Muslims need to get a sense of humour.

Humour....I am not a Muslim and I reckon that I have a pretty good sense of humour, but when a joke, cartoon or prank affects people's lives....they are no longer funny. Perhaps people shouldn't find them funny in the first place.

When Prince William's wife in hospital during her first pregnancy, an Australian DJ played a prank during their radio show. They phoned the hospital pretending to be the Queen, asking how her granddaughter-in-law was. They thought it was a hilarious joke. A nurse answered the phone and believed it to be the Queen. That nurse ended up taking her own life due to that phone call. Not so hilarious.

In December last year, just days before Christmas, after the horrific bin lorry crash in Glasgow, a young man in the North of England made an extremely unfunny joke about it on social media. Many people were angry and offended....rightly so. It was a tragic accident. People lost their lives and others were severely injured. The young man who had made the 'joke' handed himself over to the police, probably because he feared retaliation from the many people who found his joke offensive. He was charged by the police. What he had done was a chargeable offence.

Charlie Hebdo repeatedly made cartoons about various religions and high profile politicians. Back in 2008, one of their writers wrote a very antisemitic piece. He was later fired because of it. Double standards there surely. Not ok to mock the Jewish faith on that occasion, but ok to mock other religions, especially Islam. Muslims are their main target.

And I have to say that Muslims seem to be the main target for many people worldwide. I do not, and never will, condone any acts of terrorism carried out by anyone. But what seems to be happening, is a war between Muslims and the rest of the world. We share the planet, for goodness sake. We live together. Side by side, all colours, all races, all beliefs. Can't people put differences to the side and live together peacefully. There is room for everyone. Room for everyone's beliefs and opinions. But I don't think there is room for offending people in this way.

Yes, we want free speech. But being offensive, racist and obnoxious has nothing to do with free speech, in the same way that terrorism has nothing to do with religion.

Mark Zuckerberg made a point of saying that Facebook will always be a place for free speech. People should be allowed to say what they want.

So groups like Britain First will continue to encourage people to share their vile, racist posts on Facebook.

I actually complained about one I saw the other day, but was told that it complies with Facebook regulations, so it would not be taken down. The post said that Muslims might be offended by jokes about Muhammad, but we (the British people) are offended by a picture of a woman wearing her hijab, in other words, we are offended by Muslims. Another post said that Britain is a Christian country, let's keep it that way. Aren't Christians supposed to show kindness, respect and acceptance? Certainly doesn't come across that way when you see posts like those on Britain First's website.

I find Britain First posts to be highly offensive. Sadly, though, posts like that are shared on social media like wildfire. Just as all Muslims shouldn't be considered as terrorists, I hope that all British people aren't judged as being racist.

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After last week's attacks, there was a rally in France on Sunday. World leaders attended, linking arms to march in unity against terrorism under the banner of 'Je suis Charlie', supporting free speech. Ironically, many of those world leaders have been part of injustice, illegal wars and yes, even acts of terrorism themselves. They seem to have double standards and are happy to stand united when it suits.

And many of them don't actually allow free speech or freedom of information in their countries.

Our government recently ensured that the public didn't get to find out about their expenses scandal, by shredding the evidence. At the moment, there are a lot of questions being asked about paedophile rings and government members having had the knowledge about them going on, and some actually having been party to that. It is starting to look like more evidence will be getting sent to the shredder.

Allow media outlets to post offensive, racist cartoons.....but don't allow them to tell us what is going on within our own government. Something is far wrong here.

Our Prime Minister is trying to make some new laws to ban any political rallies. It is supposedly to prevent extremism in the country. He has also suggested monitoring all internet activity, even reading your private emails.  And if anyone dares to speak out against the government, they could be arrested.

Perhaps I should just hand myself in to the police now.....