Violence Against Freedom of Speech

by genevieve.asselin on February 8, 2016 - 10:54pm

No doubts, fundamental beliefs can be a fragile subject. Some conflicts can occur when these values contrast, since our life choices are based on these values and beliefs. The attack on the satiric journal Charlie Hebdo has been really controversial. One thing is sure, both of the parties did not use the most delicate way to express their disaffection towards each other’s beliefs.

The tragedy happened on the January 7, 2015. Two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, reacted violently to cartoons presented in the journal Charlie Hebdo. The men killed the editor Stephane Charbonnier and his body guard, they also killed four other cartoonists and three other editorial and a guest who was there for a meeting. In sum twelve persons were murdered.  After the killing, the police arrived, but the brothers escaped. On the morning of January 9th, the two brothers were killed (“Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror”).

The main cause of discontent and violence of the two brothers is about the representation of their Prophet Muhammed in the journal. For a majority of the Muslims, the image of their Prophet is considered as sacrilegious (Graham-Harrison). A main issue is being raised about liberty of expression and respect of beliefs. Should we advocate our liberty of expression or should we focus more on the respect of religion and accept the fact that some Muslims are not comfortable with the idea of their God represented in a cartoon.  

Considering the fact that the image of Muhammed is indecent for the Muslims, the jihadist brothers wanted to avenge their God for the publications of Charlie Hebdo. They screamed: "We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad" and "God is Great" in Arabic.

The French are known to never be at loss of words and to be really direct in their sayings. After the killing, the journal responded by another cartoon of the Prophet Muhammed. Cleary, Charlie Hebdo did not want to abdicate. Philippe Val the former director of Charlie Hebdo stated after the death of his colleagues that: “We shall not let the silence settle. Terror should not prevent the joy of living, freedom, expression and democracy” (“Un acte de guerre contre Charlie Hebdo”).

On one hand, we have the Muslims that are offended by the disrespect of the journal proposing an image of their God and on the other hand, we have the satiric journal that believe, in a way, that religion should not be hidden, neither its characters. They are claiming for liberty of press and democracy. Being emotional by these cartoons is completely normal, a lot of Muslims are very close to their religion. But such violence was not necessary.

There is no fine line between what is correct or not. The main source of conflict in this case is about what is right to post and what crosses the line. With regards to these two opposing points of views, the answer is not really clear, because on both sides there is an infraction: disrespect or violence.


“Charlie Hebdo attack: Three days of terror.” BBC News. Np. January 14, 2015. Web. February 7,2016.

Graham-Harrison, Emma. “Drawing the prophet: Islam’s hidden history of Muhammad images.” The Guardian. Np. January 10, 2015. Web. February 7, 2016.

“Un acte de guerre contre Charlie Hebdo.” Radio Canada. Np. January 15, 2015. Web. February 7,2016.


Freedom of speech does not justify one’s lack of respect. To think that freedom of speech implies that one can say whatever they want is to not understand the concept of freedom at its core. In other words, it is not because I can that I am allowed to. I’m not talking about the government or some sort of authority censoring what one says. All I’m saying is that a bit of reasoning should allow one to easily get to that conclusion.

In other words, I am not allowed to start insulting an individual on the other side of the street just because I can and I feel like it. What about their right to be be treated with respect? I would definitely be trespassing that.

Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are mainly there to prevent censorship (usually by an authority like a school, a government, etc.).

Therefore, what happened at Charlie Hebdo was not an act of violence against freedom of speech; it was an act of violence against people who had lacked respect. As you say, was such violence necessary? Obviously not! I’m not promoting violence in any way, and I’m not blaming the victims for their death. However, to turn one’s faith into a cartoon might not be the best idea either.

I’m saying this because I often see the terms freedom of speech and liberty of expression get thrown around here and there by people who understand what they really mean.

“That man is wearing a skirt? Well, I might as well call him a faggot because of freedom of speech, that’s why!”

“I’m a 17-year-old white girl who has no knowledge whatsoever regarding Black history and Black culture, but hey, I can toss that n-word everywhere because of my liberty of expression.”

Or… “Because I can, I’ll make fun of your prophet.”

In short, jokes are jokes. However, I do believe that some topics are not the greatest to make fun of, but violence is not a solution (in any way)!

At least, that’s my perspective.

Good work though! Your last sentence really summarizes what I believe. I just felt like adding a little.

Be careful, in my blog, I do not defend any of these parties. I do not believe that the cartoons of the journal were appropriate towards the Muslims. This assignment was about showing the two worldviews. Freedom of press and speech are values that Charlie Hebdo claimed for after the attack.
Although thank you for the relevant comments!

Oh, I understand! I could see that you where presenting both perspectives when, for instance, you opposed disrespect/violence. I think that you did a great job at showing the two worldviews regarding the issue. I personally had to comment an article using some of my past/background/beliefs. Therefore, I was using your article to explain why I believe freedom of speech is often not enough when it comes to justifying one's actions/words.

In my opinion, both parties were in wrong in a way. As Nikolaos said, freedom of speech does not allow everything to be said. There is a limit to this freedom, and for me, this limit is where freedom of speech goes past any respect. You can have any opinion you want on any topic you want, however, using your opinion to attack/offend someone or a group of people is not well using your freedom of speed. On the other hand, killing people because your religion has been attacked, by a drawing, is pretty much an extreme way of avenging this religion's God. In the civilized world we live in, there are various ways to make people understand that something is wrong, rather than just kill those people. The brothers could have used their freedom of speech to let the journal know they had a problem with the cartoons ! Great work, I liked reading!

The information is very pertinent. I will start of by saying that there is no good side in this situation and that I have two total different opinions about Charlie Hebdo. I do not support the act of terrorism nor do I support the satiric journal Charlie Hebdo. In this case, I don’t believe in all that freedom of speech thing. Maybe I am wrong, but I feel like people took it too far. Nowadays, I could be walking in the street and insulting your mother and then claiming freedom of speech. However, lately I have noticed that Charlie Hebdo seemed to denounce injustices and cruelty throughout the world. By mocking people they actually spread awareness, at least this is how I feel.

Freedom of speech can be a hard issue to talk about because there are no real limits included in that right. However, your post underlines these limits by illustrating the fine line between what is right, what is wrong and what is going to far. I believe your post pin pointed the true conflict at hand and described well the diverging world views and reactions, without giving away your point of view, which is not an easy task with sensitive subjects like these. In my opinion, what creates conflict of this sort is the way people react with emotion and not their rational minds. Emotions are unpredictable and can lead to rash actions, while rationality and composure is what prevents tragedies.