Charlie hebdo: “if you want to defend freedom of expression, you have to stop being young”
"Because at the last verse i stab" – cyrano de bergerac vs. A jihadist. Image: actualitte/cc by-sa 2.0
Satirical magazine publishes new muhammad cartoon to mark start of trial over 2015 islamist terror attack and worries about shifting attitudes toward freedom of expression
A rough trial on the islamist terrorist attack on the editorial office of the magazine charlie hebdo began today in paris. On 7. January 2015, the brothers said and cherif kouachi killed 12 people, members of the editorial staff of the satirical magazine, a technician, a bodyguard and a man who got in their way while they were fleeing on the street. Revenge for muhammad cartoons has been cited as a central motive for the bloodbath in the newsroom. Among the murder victims were the cartoonists cabu, charb, honore, tignous and wolinski.
The two perpetrators were caught and shot dead by police two days later. In the trial, which is described as historic, the background of the attack, which had been prepared for a long time, is discussed. Trial is held against aides of the terrorist attack. There are 14 main defendants, with three not present – they are presumed dead or missing in syria or iraq.
Danger two hundred civil parties are represented, about a hundred lawyers involved. The anhorung was designed for 49 days, as le monde reports. The process is filmed in full lange, underlining its historical significance, the newspaper said.
Radicalization back in the debate
But his current significance is also interesting. The process brings the problem of radical islamism back into the news-driven spotlight. There the corona topic dominated since months. With the start of the trial, a threat that has long kept france in suspense, the attack on charlie hebdo, which was accompanied by another deadly act of terrorism against a kosher supermarket and a policewoman, was the beginning of a series of monstrous terrorist attacks in the neighboring country.
The debate on how to deal with the threat of radicalization, which has become a bitter reality in a brutal way, dominated the political establishment and the questions about the republic’s self-understanding. The debate may have been overshadowed by the corona crisis, but it is not dead, because it is also a debate about freedom of speech.
"It’s hard when you’re loved by idiots"
The current cover of the extra edition of charlie hebdo for the start of the trial takes up this thread directly. Under the heading "tout ca pour ca?" (translated roughly: "and all this for?") a new caricature of mohammed is presented, framed by the earlier ones known all over the world. In the center of the title page of 2. September you can see the prophet dressed all in black, contritely holding his hands in front of his transfixed eyes. "It’s hard when you’re loved by idiots", so the speech bubble to it. The text next to the drawn prophet reads: "mohammed, overwhelmed by the fundamentalists".
There was also a word on this from lebanon. Macron, who was there yesterday, was asked about the charlie hebdo cover. He responded by saying that, as president, he did not have to interfere and spoke out not only in favor of freedom of the press, but also explicitly in favor of the right to blasphemy. However, he linked these freedoms with an appeal to a respectful, civil approach to these freedoms and with the obligation (devoir), "not to instigate a dialogue based on hatred".
This is where it gets difficult: who defines the limits of respect, what is reasonable, what is respect directed at, at people, at content?? The dispute over attempts to legislate against hate speech is part of this land of emotional mines, where there are no fixed answers.
Change in public opinion?
When it comes to public sensitivities and attitudes, as reflected in an ifop survey on freedom of expression, charlie hebdo is concerned about young people. The pointed conclusion is:
If you want to defend freedom of expression, you have to stop being young.
This is based on statements made by the age group of 15 to 24-year-olds on their assessment of the perpetrators of the terrorist attack on the editorial office and on the cartoons in an interview survey in early to mid-august (1,020 people, representative of the population of france).
When asked whether the assassination should be condemned, 88 percent overall and 72 percent of muslims had fully condemned brother kouachi, which, according to the charlie hebdo authors, shows that 12 and 28 percent, respectively, had condemned brother kouachi "they find sympathetic or do not care". This percentage is strikingly higher among 14- to 24-year-olds. There, only 72 percent overall and 62 percent of muslims fully condemned the attacks.
"This clearly increases the popularity of the murderers and their acts", the authors conclude. They further substantiate their impression with the result shown among 15 to 17 year olds. While in 2016, one percent of them did not condemn the attack, in the current poll it is 22 percent.
When asked to assess the muhammad cartoons, the impression of the charlie hebdo authors solidifies. 47 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds understood the outrage over the publication of the cartoons. In the population as a whole, the figure is 29 percent. Among muslims, 73 percent – and 83 percent among muslims ages 25 to 34.
When asked if the publications were right or wrong to publish the cartoons, "only 59 percent of the population defended freedom of speech", according to charlie hebdo. Among 15 to 24 year-olds, the figure is even lower, at 35 percent. 69 percent of muslims rated the publication as useless. The percentage rises to 72 percent among 15- to 24-year-old muslims.