Charlie Hebdo: A Voice Greater Than Terrorism

Alia Lewis

With all that has happened in the recent days of January and past months of 2014, it is undeniable that our voices matter, that our freedom of speech is powerful; so powerful in fact, that not even a terrorist attack could silence it.

Last Wednesday, according to BBC, 12 French citizens died during France’s deadliest terrorist attack since 1961. The attack, which caused massive outrage from citizens in France to the US to Saudi Arabia, was led by two Islamic extremist against the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo.

Charlie Hebdo is known for publishing witty, sarcastic, anti-religious cartoons that consequently offend many. Their extremely liberal magazine believes in saying whatever to whomever. The Telegraph stated that “In 2011, it was the victim of a fire bombing after publishing cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad.” Although Charlie Hebdo is very offensive to many religions, heavily mocking Islam and Catholicism, there is no excuse for a violent attack.

Hamed Saeedi, a Muslim, sent this email to the BBC:

“In my Islamic upbringing I was taught that the pen is man’s strongest weapon. These extremists must know that they can never silence freedom of speech, for it is a stronger weapon than any they’d dare to carry. Why couldn’t they answer peacefully through the pen as our prophet likely would have? True Islam condemns such attacks, more so when they are ignorantly and violently carried out in its name. Long live freedom of expression, religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.”

The sickening terrorist attack that occurred last week and even four years ago is not only an attack against humanity, but an attack against one of humanities greatest weapons: our voice and our freedom of speech. Charlie Hebdo understands this point and consequently will print as usual. Plus with the help of Google and other French newspapers, this Wednesday they will be printing one million copies, “the largest distribution in the magazines history” according to The Verge.

But what does this have to do with us here at Georgia Southern? How does it apply to our everyday lives?

Students, professors, employers, everyday citizens will not always like what you have to say, but that doesn’t grant them to right to silence you. Your voice has power. Use it to speak out against whatever it is you believe in, whatever it is you’re passionate about. Speak out against rights you feel have been violated, injustices that have been committed. People are listening. As proved with Eric Garner and Mike Brown through The Millions March and what has been proved on Wednesday, our voices matter and they shall be heard. Defend your freedom of speech.