This past week was shocking and horrifying for many people. The atrocious attacks on the satirical comic-based magazine Charlie Hebdo, followed by the siege on Hyper Cacher (a Jewish deli), left many shocked and saddened. This article seeks to summarise the plethora of views articulated primarily on social media dealing with these awful events. As people came to terms with the events, and the consequences that followed, they sought to articulate their positions on the attacks. Thus, this piece seeks to provide a general overview of the trends in the arguments presented. This article will not be an exhaustive overview, nor will it seek to outline all existing opinions surrounding the events; it will outline the thoughts, ideas, and general views posted in the days following the events.
Several points need to be noted prior to the main piece itself. The first is an acknowledgement that the piece has an inherent selection bias: the Facebook and Twitter comments gathered are a function of the network available to me. That being said, the statements echoed here and taken from social media are not my own and therefore do not necessarily echo my opinions nor the opinions of Al Miraah. Further. Putting the opinions here is not an endorsement of the views displayed.
Finally, I would like to express my deepest condolences for those harmed and affected by the events described. I send out my thoughts to the families of the victims and to the people of France.
It is okay to criticise the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine. To do so does not mean we cannot — and must not — at the same time condemn the act of murder and terrorism conducted by brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi.
It also does not mean that we agree with or believe in the terrorists’ way of thinking. Clearly the proper response to a slight or offense — about one’s religion or otherwise — is not and never will be murder. That is beyond debate. To explain the motivations of terrorists is not to condone or justify their actions. It is a necessary measure that will allow us to manage the threat posed by terrorism inspired by the ideologies of groups like al-Qaeda.
Freedom of speech is often considered to be the pinnacle of democracy, yet through the years we have seen many instances where this concept has been misused and even abused. When the concept of ‘freedom of speech’ is stretched beyond recognition in order to polarise a particular group within any given society, we are no long dealing with freedom of any kind, or someone merely stating their personal opinion. In cases like these, we are dealing with hate speech, intended to incite hostility and demean the group of people in question. This is exactly what Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch ‘Party for Freedom’ (PVV), was guilty of when he attacked the entire Moroccan-Dutch population for the umpteenth time in March 2014.
On 19 March 2014, on the eve of the municipal elections, Mr. Wilders led an anti-Moroccan chant whilst addressing a large group of supporters at a cafe in The Hague. He asked the question: “Would you like to have more or fewer Moroccans in our country?” to which the crowd responded: “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” Wilders then replied: “Then we’ll fix it for you.” In addition to this, in a later televised interview he referred to the Moroccan population as “Moroccan scum.”