|More than three million people took part in unity rallies across France|
Naturally the incident has provoked a flood of reactions from the internet. A message of solidarity in the face of Islamic extremism and violence has spread quickly through the use of the hashtag ‘#jesuisCharlie’, as people have banded together to denounce and condemn these aforementioned barbaric actions. Importantly, any ignorant and insensitive individuals that have since used these attacks as a platform to promote their own views or attempt to twist the narrative to something more fitting to their ridiculous agenda have received their deserved criticism.
Of course, an attack like this will prompt a number of responses on more than one issue. Above anything, it is important to mourn the loss of those who were killed and send messages of strength and support to both their work colleagues and families. To my mind, this attack on the freedom of speech and expression has absolutely no justification – for people to commit brutal murders in reaction to a piece of satire, which they have chosen to let offend them, is unforgivable and nearly (if it were not for the reality of the situation) unbelievable. These freedoms are basic and vital to a liberal democracy and we are absolutely within our rights to be outraged, as is Charlie Hebdo completely within its rights, and credit to the magazine, to continue to publish.
My concern surrounding these killings has arisen from its religious aspect. Clearly, this was a politically motivated, fundamentalist, terrorist attack and should be dealt with properly in the eyes of the law. I’m worried however, that the situation may only serve to spark a new wave of Islamaphobia which is beneficial to absolutely no one and would also be based on flawed logic.
I’ll explain by using the example of the Sydney hostage situation that arose around a month ago. It’s widely agreed that the attack by gunman Man Haron Monis wasn’t a ‘terrorist attack’, rather the actions of a mentally ill and dangerous sociopath. However, speaking in a press conference soon after the situation erupted, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot described the event as ‘attack of politically motivated violence’. To me, this is extremely damaging behaviour from a person in a position of great responsibility. It is not productive to link an attack like this (a single man, or, in the case of Paris, a small group of extremists) to a whole religion which suffers from the stigma attached to its fundamentalist wing. Importantly, this faction makes up less than 1% of all Muslims; it is not representative of Islam. Furthermore Islam continues to denounce extremist actions carried by Muslim fundamentalists. If an apolitical attack in Sydney can be completely misconstrued in this way, we need to make sure that the Paris attack does not spiral into Islamaphobia.
Of course, the killings in Paris have clear political motivation behind them, and are being met with the serious attitude they deserve. I’m just wary that more bigoted members of society may be quick to use this as a way of inciting more hatred and racism. This affects us on a national and international level. In our country, immigration is hot topic in the run-up to the election and inflammatory comments towards migrants and people of other ethnicities can only be damaging and hurtful. Internationally, the fight (preferably figurative rather than literal) against ISIS must continue, but we must ensure that it remains a campaign against unjustified killing, oppression and terror, and not against a religion whose teachings of peace and love and tolerance tend to be ignored.