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Placing blame on Hebdo cartoonists is unfair

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The Appalachian Online

Despite the tragic deaths of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists, some people have criticized them and blamed them for the attack, claiming that their cartoons depicting Mohammad were racist and insensitive. This has turned what should be a time of mourning into a battle over the right to freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech has, of course, been limited in the past. Issues such as libel and slander are not allowed. The question is normally whether or not Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons crossed the line.

Slavoj Zizek, the Slovenian philosopher, wrote of the attack in the New Statesman, and he argues that this attack on liberal democracy, instead of strengthening it, has highlighted its flaws and weaknesses. If we wish to preserve our freedoms, our way of life, then we must critically think.

Blaming the victims for their demise is surrendering and stating that we will give up our freedoms so as not to anger a small extremist group that dislikes them.

It is true that Islam generally frowns on depictions of the Prophet, but it is also true that most Muslims do not view this as an offense punishable by death. In short, this terrorist attack, like others before it, is not condoned by the general Muslim community.

However, there has been a reaction which claims that we ought to regulate the press to avoid insulting minority populations. Australia’s Human Rights Commissioner Tim Wilson said that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in question would have never been published in Australia because they would have been classified as racist.

Should there be a line when it comes to freedom of speech? Should we not have the ability to criticize freely, even to poke fun at serious issues? That is, after all, the reason for satire. It seems rather wrong that the victims of a terrorist attack are the ones being blamed.

Protecting freedom of speech invariably means that we will have to listen to things that we do not agree with or do not want to hear. Freedom of speech is an essential prerequisite to a democratic society and government.

We gain nothing by limiting it.

When our freedoms are attacked, it becomes even more important for us to defend them by continuing to exercise them.

Malcolm, a junior history major from Walkertown, is an opinion writer.

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