The events in Paris on Wednesday 7 January 2015 have left me appalled. The inhuman attack on Charlie Hebdo and its staff is terrifying, infuriating and I believe unprecedented. It is a shocking attack on freedom of speech and shows a total disregard for the victims as human beings. It is all an example of extreme intolerance.
However, I cannot say ‘I am Charlie’. I find the approach adopted by Charlie Hebdo towards religious people deeply disrespectful and similarly lacking in regard to their respect for the fundamental humanity of religious people. Their approach was also I believe a sign of intolerance. The magazine was intolerant of religious people as well as their beliefs. This intolerance brought about a reaction.
Having said that in no way can you justify killing someone simply because you disagree with them, with what they have said or because they have insulted your religion. Sadly intolerance begets more intolerance, which in turn fosters extremism, entrenches positions and quells debate.
In summary, I cannot say ‘I am Charlie’ and I cannot stand with Charlie Hebdo, but at the same time I fear for freedom of speech and expression as well as the intolerance that is sweeping through western democracies. This intolerance is exhibited by all people, of all races, beliefs, whether ‘enlightened rationalists and humanists’ or ‘superstitious religious folk’. It is a trend that can only lead to social conflict and will sweep us all up in its wake unless we all consciously resist the urge and foster tolerance, diversity and mutual love and respect for all our fellow people.