And that is pretty much how I have felt since the terrible events in Paris earlier this week. I have liked and shared beautiful, poignant cartoons and articles on various social media platforms to show my abhorrence for the events and my support for a free press. And I have claimed that “Je suis Charlie”. But there was one image I couldn’t post, a picture I saw of the covers of the Charlie Hebdo issues that had been the alleged “Justification” that had made the magazine offices a “legitimate” target.
I was aware that Muslims believed that the Prophet should not be represented in any image and I did not want to cause any accidental offence to the majority of Muslims around the world who abhor what occurred in Paris this week as I do, but the more I have thought about it the more I wondered how much of my reticence to put my name to that particular image was fear. Fear of being associated with those cartoonists and journalists, fear of standing up publically and stating loudly “That I am Charlie”.
If I was writing this piece not in 2015 but in the 1970s or 1980s then there is a chance that the type of terrorists that I would have been discussing would have been the IRA. Now both my parents were Irish and Catholic, which made me question myself. If I had ever come face to face with a Republican terrorist, a gun or bomb trigger in his hand intent on the death of whoever passed by would I have pleaded with him that we were alike, brothers, kinsmen as much a “victim” of the English in order to save my life. Would I?
If I found myself stood between an anti-Semitic mob and a defenceless Jewish boy would I scream at them that I’m as Jewish as the child, would I deliberately make myself the target if it was the only way to save another person.
For this is what the terrorists aim is, to create fear of supporting others, fear of other races, strangers, big cities, travel. That anxiety that if you go somewhere something might happen and while I hope never to be challenged to be heroic by being caught up in some terrorist outrage, I must not allow the terrorist to decide where I go in the world. That for me is what “Je suis Charlie” means, continuing with life and the historic freedoms of our societies.
But what about me personally being scared of causing offence would I really be prepared to use my writing to say something that I believed in, in defence of the society and way of life of my fellow citizens, would I say this knowing that some people would be offended by it; some of whom are law abiding people who mean no harm to me but knowing that there are others out there with warped ideologies driving them to destroy blindly.
Well the answer to that is I still don’t know. All I do know is that I have grown up watching satire of politicians, public figures, religion. Society changes and some of the humour I saw in the 1970s would not be acceptable today but there still has to be a place for challenging other viewpoints. I remember one of my favourite comedians from when I was growing up was an Irishman named Dave Allen with a lot of his comic ire being aimed towards the Catholic Church, with the ceremony and pomposity that he had grown up with back in Ireland. He described himself as an atheist but ended his shows with the phrase “Thank you, goodnight and may your God go with you.” and isn’t that the best you can hope of from another human being that they will leave you free to make your own decisions.
© 2015 | Frank Regan, All rights reserved.