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Charlie Hebdo: A Realisation that Europe's Identity is Freedom?

08/01/2015 12:58 GMT | Updated 09/03/2015 09:59 GMT

The reactions to the Charlie Hebdo tragedy speak volumes. World leaders, journalists and the public worldwide have come together to condemn the attack and pledge to stand up for freedom. The massacre has shown how important our fight to maintain freedom is and how people will go to drastic measures to intimidate us. The taste of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons and constant attempts to offend everyone equally all the time is not what should be focused on. It's that we live in a world with such aggressive forces that go to great violent lengths to suppress the most absurd and insignificant. Google some of Charlie Hebdo's cartoons: vulgar, stupid and irreverent but not an ounce of hate in them. You may not like the cartoons or think some of them fair nor clever but it is merely slapstick with serious figures. Trivial transgressions from what you deem appropriate is nothing to kill people over. There is no aggression of war within the drawings, no encouragement of hate nor violence. Merely something that is not liked. Who murders because of a cartoon? It seems like a nonsensical world that has come out of nightmarish dystopian fiction. Cartoons should be freely drawn without fear, this is a basic standard in a healthy society.

It can be presumed that a publication such as Charlie Hebdo drawing images that insult what you hold to be the most important thing in the world and indicating that they couldn't care less hurts deeply, but still not an excuse to commit murder. Using religion as an excuse is disgusting. Blaming the victims is barbaric. Trying to silence critics using religion and violence for the 'because I said so' reason is futile. Muslims across the world have condemned the attack. The extremist few are a tiny minority and we must work globally to encourage positivity, cooperation and tolerance of things that hurt our feelings. A mirror to the world is more useful that a censored distorted image.

The European Union is always in the news, mainly its criticism, and one thing that puzzles Brits is the question of European identity. Not many of us feel European. However, today it is clear what the identity of Europe and the rest of the Western world is: freedom. This was what Angela Merkel and David Cameron agreed upon when condemning the attack: to support France and its ideals of free speech and tradition of satire. We are not perfect but the rampant suppression of the smallest aspects of people's lives in the name of religion can be seen elsewhere in the world: denying education and even the ability to drive for women, the frequent legal murder of gay people and heavy restriction of printed and online media. This is what we are to really fear. We can agree with the rest of Europe that this is not what we want. We don't want to be intimidated into censoring our lives, our views, our humour.

Will this tragedy finally unite Europe in one common identity and ideal: freedom and its defence? That's yet to be seen but what happened at Charlie Hebdo has reminded us all who take freedom for granted that just as there was a threat to our freedom in the first half of the twentieth century there are still forces in the world who desperately wish to diminish our freedoms through intimidation. Charlie Hebdo is simply a nonsensical satirical magazine but in a world of madness the staff can be proud of the bravery they showed in holding up a mirror to the world and not being afraid if the world didn't like what it saw. Charlie Hebdo should be synonymous with freedom of expression and Europe and the Western world need to continue to work together to uphold this ideal.