Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Steve Hansen: ‘I am Charlie’ a call to defend free speech


January 20, 2015

hansen mug

QCS Managing Editor

I have temporarily adopted “Je suis Charlie” to replace my picture on my Facebook page that connects to the Quay County Sun.

“Je suis Charlie” is French for “I am Charlie. Adopting this logo is my feeble attempt to claim some identity with the brave cartoonists and editors at Charlie Hebdo, the Parisian satire magazine, who were gunned down by “Islamist” thugs because they violated some Muslim law against displaying images of Muhammad, Islam’s prophet of God, or Allah.

They conducted their bloody assasinations in a country like ours that recognizes freedom of expression. The sponsor of these thugs, Al Qaeda of Yemen, said the killings were “retribution” for violating Islamic law, which, by the way, you have the right to do in France and in the U.S.

I really don’t think Al Qaeda, ISIS or boko haram, the African “Islamist” thug movement, cares a whit about images of Muhammad. I think their goal is pure secular power through intimidation.

Even Muslims don’t agree on whether a depiction of Muhammad is blasphemous. There are depictions of Mohammad on public view in many Islamist museums. Most Muslims, I’ll venture , do not consider it an issue worth killing each other or non-Muslims over.

I would have proposed that U.S. media run a cartoon of Muhammad crying “Shame” over all who kill offensively in his name, and especially on the cowards who talk innocents into blowing themselves up to murder other innocents.

Charlie Hebdo, however, has already done better. Its cover story last week showed a weeping Muhammad carrying a sign that says “Je suis Charlie.” ‘Nuf said.

Freedom of expression is a freedom without which you can have no others. A million French citizens believe that so strongly they marched through the city to make their feelings known. There were some marches in the U.S., but they paled in comparison, and our President didn’t see fit to send a high-ranking American official to join other world leaders on the Parisian march, which has embarrassed us.

I think we may have lost sight of just how important this freedom is. We should place as high a value on this freedom as the French do. After all, their Declaration of the Rights of Man was modeled after our Declaration of Independence.

We, however, are too busy trying to deny free expression to others. Conservatives in Texas have banned “liberal” books from classrooms. Leftists at some top universities have managed to silence conservative thought in the humanities. We have allowed “political correctness” to destroy any possibility of honest dialogue that could help close the gaps between our races and cultures.

Charlie Hebdo should remind us why freedom of expression leads our Bill of Rights.

I am Charlie. You are Charlie. We are all Charlie as long as we can proclaim, as the French satirist Voltaire is credited with proclaiming, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at [email protected]


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