“I am Charlie,” is the slogan which has caught on and brought people together against the Islamic jihadists who killed 12 people in the attack on Wednesday, including the magazine’s editor-in-chief and leading cartoonists, reports the Business Insider. However, leaked emails from Al Jazeera English editor and executive producer Salah-Aldeen Khadr reflect a different perspective.
“Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile,” Khadr wrote. “Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response—however illegitimate [sic]—is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.”
According to the National Review, which broke the story, Khadr’s denunciation of Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed didn’t sit well with some Al Jazeera English employees.
Hours later, U.S.-based correspondent Tom Ackerman sent an email quoting a paragraph from a New York Times‘ January 7 column by Ross Douthat. The op-ed argued that cartoons like the ones that drove the radical Islamists to murder must be published, “because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed.”
The email started a chain reaction within the Al Jazeera network, which revealed polarizing beliefs about the attack.
“I guess if you insult 1.5 billion people chances are one or two of them will kill you,” wrote Doha based reporter Mohamed Vall Salem, who reported for Al Jazeera’s Arab-language channel before joining its English wing in 2006. “And I guess if you encourage people to go on insulting 1.5 billion people about their most sacred icons then you just want more killings because as I said in 1.5 billion there will remain some fools who don’t abide by the laws or know about free speech. What Charlie Hebdo did was not free speech it was an abuse of free speech in my opinion, go back to the cartoons and have a look at them! It’s not about what the drawing said, it was about how they said it. I condemn those heinous killings, but I’M NOT CHARLIE.”
The National Review reports Khadr added, “This was a targeted attack, not a broad attack on the french population a la Twin towers or 7/7 style. So who was this attack against? The whole of France/EU society? Or specifically this magazine. The difference lies in how this is reported not in how terrible the act is obviously – murder is murder either way… but poses a narrower question of the “why”? attack on french society and values? Only if you consider CH’s racist caricatures to be the best of European intellectual production (total whitewash on that at the moment).”