‘I am Charlie’ is not about Charlie. It’s about me, you, and the values we hold dear.
The value, for example, that no one must be killed for expressing their views, that no one must be made to live in fear for their views. For us all to be free to express ourselves. For all of us to have the right to Freedom of Expression.
It may be of interest to me to research and to figure out if Charlie Hebdo is racist, Islamophobic, an instrument of White Colonialists and/or an outright right wing fascist publication but the results of this fact-finding mission will have no bearing on my ‘I’m Charlie’ decision. Rather they’ll help me hone and strengthen my ongoing struggle against racism, islamophobia, colonialism and fascism. In other words, it doesn’t matter who or what Charlie Hebdo was or is, what matters is who i am, who you are, and how we choose to defend ourselves.
Being selective in our support for basic human rights because of who the victims were or how the incidents are playing out in their larger contexts or if we favor the power-holders who benefit from such incidents or if it was a staged drama, is actually a callous position to take. We are asking humans to be more human than some others to enjoy our support for the protection of their lives. Here is an example where support is selectively offered, so we can see where this thinking leads us. ‘Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws, Shariat Courts, Jirga and Madrassa institutions only support humans that are Muslims.’ Right? Wrong! These institutions mostly support humans who are prosperous, Sunni, Adult, Male Muslims of perhaps Punjabi variety.
Some ifs and buts. If i am against US Drone strikes in Pakistan, and so are the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, should i withdraw my opposition for fear of being found on the same side as my enemies? Don’t think so, though i may add a footnote stating that my opposition to US Drone strikes does not constitute support for the zealots. If the main beneficiaries of the massacre of journalists in Paris appear to be the conservatives and European governments who are now tightening their racist/islamophobic laws against migrants and Muslims, should i leave the ‘i’m Charlie’ enclosure? No, but i will give active support to the local/global movements protesting against this usage, like i do against the usage of Malala Yousafzai by these same people. And if the bloodshed in Paris earlier this month was a staged drama, we know for sure it wasn’t staged by any of the 12 people who got shot and killed by Al-Qaeda Goons.
In all of this, and away from the enemy camp where the leaders of the free world and the religious fundamentalists both reside perpetuating violence and weaponry, i find myself making my way between Freedom-of-Expression Criers who do not see how their unqualified mantra facilitates racist/war agendas, and Islamophobia Wailers who are unable to acknowledge the necessity to confront/criticize Islam, while both use their dearly held positions as extreme accusations against each other. And then confronting the limp argument within, from the protectors of the ‘religious sentiment’ who ask us to follow the thinking of extreme fundamentalist by ‘not offending’ in the first place those religious people who will then be moved to ‘rightfully’ kill the offenders further inciting backlash against Muslims in the West. A clever ploy that places all responsibility of all violence on the victim/s of violence.
As a non-religious Muslim Canadian woman, my position to defend Freedom of Expression includes my right to reject victim-bashing in both my worlds, and to criticize Islam, and to resist all oppressive constructs of my ‘free world’ such as class, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, age, sexuality, corporate profitism, and more. That’s how i continue to be Charlie.