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Charlie Hebdo attacks affirm place of free speech

By Tina Nazerian     1/14/15 3:50am

For its Jan. 19, 2015 edition, The New Yorker chose the sketch “Solidarité,” by a Spanish artist named Ana Juan. Below the Eiffel Tower is a sea of blood, and the tower itself is dark, only becoming grey when it starts morphing into a pencil — a pencil that writes in red.

What happened at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris last Wednesday is inexcusable. It shook the journalistic world to its core, threatening freedom of speech and killing twelve people, including French journalists and cartoonists, a French bodyguard and a Muslim of Algerian descent.

I have been working at the Thresher for almost three years and want to become a journalist because I value the power of free speech. Free speech is what allows me to inform my peers, whether it’s about the violation of the Honor Council’s constitution that resulted when the Honor Council formed a graduate honor council separate from undergraduates’, or about students petitioning for upper-level language classes at the end of the last academic year. On a scale much, much greater than my articles for the Thresher, free speech is what allowed Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein to report on Watergate — and I could go on and on with further examples.

Every institution, be it government or corporate, should be criticized. I understand the criticisms many have voiced about Charlie Hebdo and its provocative cartoons. Yet, whether or not I or anyone else agrees with what was printed on those pages, those twelve people did not deserve to die.

Free speech does not eliminate consequences. Screaming “bomb” in an airport would get me arrested and investigated, and rightfully so. Yet nothing someone says warrants them to get murdered. I don’t care how many people disagree with Charlie Hebdo right now — I’m pretty sure that Ahmed Merabet, who fired at the gunmen to protect the office, did not agree with the cartoons and images in that magazine. What I care about is that twelve people were viciously murdered by fanatic fundamentalists. 

And yes, I will call the gunmen “fundamentalists,” because that’s what they were. They were not Muslim. They merely claimed to be Muslim, and as such, only ISIL and Al-Queda should apologize for these attacks, not my Muslim friends in the United States and Muslim relatives in Iran.

In fact, the recent surge of hateful rhetoric against Muslims, particularly in Europe, shows exactly why there must be free speech. Because for every hurtful, nasty word hurled at Muslims, there is an educated, progressive word retorted back.

Rice, there have been times when you have disagreed with the Thresher, and there will be times when you disagree with us in the future. But know that, as part of the staff, I do what I do because I believe free speech, the foundation of journalism, is absolutely essential to a functioning society.

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