Limits Of Freedom (Charlie Hebdo Incident)

Charlie Hebdo

On the morning of 7 January 2015, at about 11:30 local time, two masked gunmen armed with assault rifles and other weapons forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. They fired up to 50 shots, killing 11 people and injuring 11 others, and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is [the] greatest”) during their attack. They also killed a French National Police officer shortly after. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which took responsibility for the attack. Five others were killed and another eleven were wounded in related shootings that followed in the Île-de-France region.


France raised Vigipirate (its terror alert) to its highest level, and deployed soldiers in Île-de-France and Picardy. A massive manhunt led on 9 January to the discovery of the suspects, brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, who exchanged fire with police. The brothers took hostages at a signage company in Dammartin-en-Goële, and were gunned down when they emerged firing from the building.


On 11 January, about 2 million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a rally of national unity, and 3.7 million people joined demonstrations across France. The phrase Je suis Charlie (French for “I am Charlie”) was a common slogan of support at the rallies and in social media. The remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo continued publication, and the following issue sold out seven million copies in six languages, in contrast to its typical French-only print run of 60,000.

I have to begin by saying that, what those gunmen did was absolutely wrong.  They had no right to do what they did. I am not going for further explanations because both Muslims and Non-Muslims know what they did was wrong.

But I have to also state that ‘Charlie Hebdo’ was at fault too. To insult a person’s faith is not a good thing to do. There were some controversies related with ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and Islam in the past years too. Charlie Hebdo has a history of attracting controversy. In 2006, Islamic organisations under French hate speech laws unsuccessfully sued over the newspaper’s re-publication of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. The cover of a 2011 issue retitled Charia Hebdo (French for Sharia Weekly), featured a cartoon of Muhammad, whose depiction is forbidden in some interpretations of Islam. The newspaper’s office was fire-bombed and its website hacked. In 2012, the newspaper published a series of satirical cartoons of Muhammad, including nude caricatures; this came days after a series of violent attacks on U.S. embassies in the Middle East, purportedly in response to the anti-Islamic film ‘Innocence of Muslims’, prompting the French government to close embassies, consulates, cultural centres, and international schools in about 20 Muslim countries. Riot police surrounded the newspaper’s offices to protect it against possible attacks.

Cartoonist Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, murdered in the attack on the magazine, was the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo from 2009. Two years before the attack he stated, “We have to carry on until Islam has been rendered as banal as Catholicism.

‘Charlie Hebdo’ kept on insulting Islam even though they were sued. They were not concerned about the feelings of the Muslims. They were insulting Islam just because they thought the religion was unrealistic. Now some people will say that there was nothing wrong in insulting Islam. They will also say that what ‘Charlie Hebdo’ did was part of “Freedom of Speech” or “Freedom of Expression”. Was it really freedom of speech or expression?


I, myself as a student of Political Science, have a clear view on “Freedom of Speech” and “Freedom of Expression”. And according to my teacher you can enjoy your rights as long as it does not hurt someone else. So, has ‘Charlie Hebdo’ hurt someone? Yes, it has. And that is why they were sued in 2006. And that is why they were fire bombed in 2011. And that is why they are facing a tough time now. You can enjoy “Freedom of Speech” and “Freedom of Expression” as long as it does not hurt someone (physically or mentally).

I would like to draw your attention to Pope Francis, who recently gave his opinion on this incident. He said that, “One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, and one cannot make fun of faith. There is a limit. Every religion has its dignity … in freedom of expression, there are limits.”

“Charlie Hebdo” could have criticized Islam in many ways, but the way they insulted Islam was wrong.


Again, on the shooting incident I am a neutral. What the gunmen from Al Qaeda did was wrong. But I won’t be proclaiming ‘Je Suis Charlie’, because what ‘Charlie Hebdo’ did was wrong as well.

Now I want you to rethink the situation. Think about the definition of “Freedom of Speech” and “Freedom of Expression”. And I want you to ask yourselves again “Was ‘Charlie Hebdo’ right to insult Islam and its Prophet?” (Don’t take the shooting incident into consideration, because we all know that is a whole different world of stupidity)

Thank You.

P.S:- Please feel free to post your opinion on the incident and also this article in the comments section.


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