Two days ago, eleven men and one woman were killed in the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo. The journalists killed are all famous in France (Cabu, Charb, Honoré, Wolinsky…). Two of the men, Ahmed Merrabet (a police officer) and Mustapha Ourrad (corrector at the newspaper) have names of Arab origin. The following day, another police officer, this time a woman, Clarissa Jean-Philippe (from Martinique) was also shot by a third killer (who has since then killed two more people). These people, murdered were white, brown, and black.
The story has gone viral and millions of people have said, “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie). Some voices have been distancing themselves from the irreverent, and sometimes vulgar, cartoons of Charlie Hebdo‘s contributors. The journalists did not only focus on the Muslims. They laughed at anyone who behaved in an authoritarian or inauthentic manner. They ridiculed politicians from all sides and religious of all kinds. It is not to everybody’s taste and I doubt that Charlie Hebdo would ever be tolerated in an Anglo-Saxon country. Just Google images of Charlie Hebdo and you will get a taste of its sense of humor. Some of it is hilarious. In some cases, they are difficult to look at.
We have an expression in French, “Le ridicule tue”. Ridicule kills. In this case, it is the ridiculed who killed. The power of the pen was unbearable to their sensitivity. (Just imagine the reaction of some Catholics if Charlie Hebdo took Cardinal Burke as a target. Some would love it; some would be appalled or enraged.)
France has entered, it seems, a very turbulent time, with seemingly a couple of cells of terrorists becoming active. A great theme for an action movie. But it is not fiction; it is truly happening as I am writing.
I would like to share here one of my fondest memories. It happened in 1998. The French soccer team won the World Cup. The French people felt on top of the world, not only because their team had won, but because their team was ‘Black, Blanc, Beur’, meaning ‘Black, White, Brown’. Our soccer team brought our nation together. The barriers fell. We became color blind. We loved one another. So, we can do it, even though it seems so out of reach at the moment.
As I was looking for the name of the killers, I found out that they, Cherif and Said Kouachi, have just been killed by the ‘GIGN’ (French squat team). This too is a tragedy, the fact that the situation in which they lived lead them to take such a path. It is said that Cherif Kouachi was radicalized by the news of Abu Ghraib some years back. He was trained in Irak and Yemen… News, hatred, fear, terror are also globalized.
It is not easy to be Muslim or black in France, anymore that it is easy to be black in the US, or a Palestinian in the Middle East. Each has to find his or her dignity somewhere, and sometimes it is in becoming an enemy of the state.
As guns turn silent, may we, French folks, learn to understand the Other, to recognize his or her humanity and dignity, as well as presence of the Divine in each.
Photos: Some members of Charlie Hebdo’s team (Photo Le Temps); Ahmed Merrabet (Photo Twitter); Clarissa Jean-Philippe (Photo thetimes.co.uk)
Link: Huffingtonpost.fr, Victimes de l’Attentat à Charlie Hebdo