Freedom of speech has boundaries


By Thierry Marianne [CC BY 2.0 (], via Flickr: Creative Commons

Protesters in front of French restaurant, L’Evidence in Paris, armed with signs of political art.

On Jan. 7 just before noon, two masked gunmen entered the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Their goal was to kill. A total of 12 people lost their lives. They were all staff members, except two guards who were on duty during the shooting.

The reason behind the shooting was when the magazine released an issue with an offensive caricature of Muhammad on the cover. It is forbidden in the Hadith, a collection of the teachings of the prophet Muhammad, to depict him in any way. The cartoonists should have used better judgement when designing the cover of this issue.

Freedom of expression is a birthright some countries have. However, one should be sensitive when it comes to insulting faiths. It seems to be routine to just victimize the people who were killed, disregarding anything they did wrong.

Even so, the mockery does not justify the men killing the magazine staff. It was horrible what happened to those people. It should have never happened at all, but the cartoonist were not completely innocent. They didn’t need to use such gritty humor in order to make a point. When a person uses one freedom to downgrade someone else’s, in this case freedom of religion, it seems to minimize the impact that the birthright has in the first place.

French teacher Deborah Berg agrees that the magazine’s comments and caricatures were over the top. She understands how people could easily get upset over something like that. Believing that the writers never imagined their comments would cause an attack when publishing this particular issue.

The cartoonists should have respected the Islamic culture as they would have wanted any other culture to respect theirs. The writers were aware of what they were doing and how offensive their magazine was; they just didn’t care about the possible consequences. Most of their cartoons were offensive to not just Muslims, but to different religious and political groups as well.

The Islamic community was outraged by this. Instead, they saw it as deliberate mockery and downgrading of their prophet, the person they hold to be most sacred. The writers didn’t just mock Islam, they also made the Muslims look bad as a whole. When something is different, too often we insult rather than attempt to understand.

Terry Welch, history teacher, feels that this tragedy was caused by the fundamental difference between the Islamic and Christian communities and beliefs.

This needs to be an awakening for every country — that we as a whole should respect each other. Our freedom should be used to make a positive impact, not a negative one.

Sometimes it takes a reign of terror and mourning to allow people to finally see the light of things. In a way, all progress is made by trial and error. Sadly, this was an error that ended lives. However, there is always a lesson to be learned. The lesson we can take away from this experience is just understanding respect and knowing when things are being taken too far.

Although satire allows writers to insult someone or something, the excessive and exaggerated insult and disrespect from the cartoonists and writers of Hebdo magazine crossed the line.