Letter of Response

In response to the Feb. 5 article “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie: Context of Charlie Hebdo.”

You expressed your disagreement with the French concern for freedom of speech in the article “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie: Context of Charlie Hebdo.” This concern arose after the terrorist attacks that happened in January against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and Jewish people. I found your arguments deeply concerning and believe that they distort and ignore the truth. I would like to answer you here to correct the false assertions you made about Charlie Hebdo and the French people in general.

Let’s start with your analysis of France’s foreign policy. It is naive of you to argue that the French government acts only out of compassion. You are right to point out that it has supported military dictators on multiple occasions. Yet, as you are using the example of the Algerian civil war, let me remind you that the French government did not go “against the Algerian people and against the democratically elected president.”

It sided with the Algerian government against Islamist terrorists who committed attacks against Algerian and French civilians and whose values are incompatible with democracy. As to the systematic support to dictators against the people, you may have forgotten the French involvement in Tunisia, Libya and Syria against the military governments. It is true that France considers Israel to be an ally, yet it has often condemned Israel’s acts of violence on Palestinian civilians and is currently advocating for the recognition of Palestine as a sovereign state by the United Nations.

Let us now focus on the terrorist attacks. Your statements clearly denote a lack of knowledge about France. There is indeed a dangerous climate of growing Islamophobia in France. However, you seem to use that argument to defend the terrorist attacks, which is inexcusable. No, Charlie Hebdo is not Islamophobic nor xenophobic and neither are its readers. It is a satirical left-wing magazine that mocks everything indiscriminately, from politicians to religions. Islam is the monotheist religion that is mocked the least in its pages, lagging far behind Judaism and, mostly, Christianity.

One of their favorite targets is Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right party Front National, precisely the one who encourages xenophobia among the French people. Yet, even if, as you falsely assert, Charlie Hebdo was indeed Islamophobic and xenophobic, murders are never justified. The quote from Robert Brimlow that you highlighted – “[Terrorism] belongs to those who perceive gross injustice and oppression and who lack the political power to effect change through peaceful means” – is extremely dangerous, as it justifies terrorism.

You seem to imply that it is at least understandable that Islamists, as an oppressed minority, have the right to commit terrorist attacks. Al-Qaeda, Al-Nostra, Boko Haram – do these groups seem like weak people who suffer injustice and oppression? Terrorism, if I may remind you, is the use of violence on innocent people to strike fear.

It is never justifiable. And to what oppression do you refer to say these extremists are oppressed? The absolute right to express oneself? Even if you seem to dismiss it, the important issue at stake here is freedom of speech. The real oppression here would be not to publish those drawings for fear of infuriating the ignorant who react with guns. French people will not be afraid of a handful of hateful stupid fanatics and will continue to express their opinions in the respect of human dignity. As Voltaire said, “I disagree with what you say, but I will fight for you to be allowed to say it.”

Vincent Guénon

Exchange student from Sciences Po