By Vini Bhati
Edited by Madhavi Roy
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.”
These profound words of Voltaire lost its essence the very day when Stephane Charbonnaire, the editor of a French satirical magazine, was assassinated by a religious fanatic group for exercising his right to creative expression.
This brutal attack took place on the 7th of January, 2015, when 12 members of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ magazine were gunned down by an Islamic terrorist group during a weekly editorial meeting. A well-known satirical French magazine, it was one of the most prominent centres for the articulation of diverse ideas and illustrations which were published in the form of satires, jokes and cartoons on religious issues, giving it its distinct flavour and creating a reading culture of its own,. This efflorescent culture was silenced by these self-proclaimed “custodians of religion” as it supposedly offended their sentiments and thus required to be terminated. Who thought that a meek pen could shake the foundation of a solid religion and their faith in God?
The magazine became the centre of controversy when it published a cover drawing which featured a bearded man kissing a cartoonist with a caption “L’amour: Plus fort que la haine, (” Love: Stronger than hate.”), intending to propagate the spirit of brotherhood in its distinctive style. But they had to pay a huge price for their symbolic creation as it was not taken as an earnest gesture of goodwill by extremist Islamic groups.
This horrific incident brought humanity to a standstill as it clearly was an attack on the ability of the exploration and interrogation of man through creative expression. It was an assault on the agency of the flourishing media, which is viewed as a platform for embracing diverse opinions by giving room to deliberations in case of a disagreement. In the guise of hurt religious sentiments, it was an attempt to spread lawlessness and mayhem which thwarted the subjectivity of individuals and thus paralysed liberty. Due to this retrograde vision of religion shared by a few, a vision which was unleashed in its most bestial form, the world lost, first those 140 precious lives in Peshawar, and now 12 members of the media fraternity. Who can forget the bloody escalation of Boko Harem’s ongoing onslaught in Nigeria, which was regarded as the “deadliest massacre” by Amnesty International?
It is the need of the hour to assert the fact to those groups that no religion propagates violence, and that God does not need to be ‘protected’, especially not through violence! In the end, by taking those innocent lives without batting an eyelid, they departed from the path of godliness, and thus they ended up accomplishing their own self-interest and expressing their fanaticism.
They may have managed to silence a few voices with the power of guns, but the world will not be silent anymore as strong condemnations of this act are being witnessed everywhere. #JeSuisCharlie is trending all over twitter to express solidarity towards a single fraternity called humanity which is aloof of any kind of religious affiliations.
I would like to end by quoting one of the most poignant expressions of Charb which sums up his entire life,
“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees”
Vini Bhati is a 2nd year English literature student at Hans Raj College, Delhi University. A passionate theatre artist and debater, she ardently believes in the power of self composed thoughts on paper as it gives her a sense of distinctiveness amidst the crowd and empowers her to think, believe and grow. Her interests range from public speaking, voracious reading and listening to vibrant music .She can be reached at [email protected]