Why Some People Are Opposing The Phrase ‘Je Suis Charlie’

After the massacre of 12 cartoonists working at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, people all across the globe have started chanting “Je suis Charlie” to show support of the innocent people who lost their lives. “Je suis Charlie” means “I am Charlie” and was even spoken a few times during the recent broadcast of the Golden Globes. However, not everyone is on board with the memorializing catch phrase. In fact, some people are even choosing to say “Je ne suis Charlie” instead of “Je suis Charlie.”

According to the L.A. Times, some of the cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Muhammad in Charlie Hebdo were considered over-the-line by many people. Those who opposed both the killings of the cartoonists and the cartoons themselves have started switching from “Je suis Charlie” to “Je ne suis Charlie” to find a middle ground of free-speech support and an opposition to intolerance. This implies that some consider the cartoons satirizing Islam to be a form of bigotry, rather than mockery of an idea.

It’s a difficult line to walk, particularly since Charlie Hebdo has become famous for satirizing many religions. But Islam has always been a dangerous topic for satirists. The outspoken atheist activist, Penn Jillette, has admitted he doesn’t criticize Islam because he’s afraid of retaliation. Other satirists, like Charlie Hebdo and Bill Maher, are less afraid to take the Islamic radicals on — at least with their words. Those who support “Je suis Charlie” defend Charlie Hebdo, regardless of the taboo content they publish. Free speech is free speech.

The founder of National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, criticized both the magazine and the phrase “Je suis Charlie,” claiming that Charlie Hebdo cartoonists had helped to corrupt “political morality” in France. Le Pen spoke to a crowd in Beaucaire this past weekend and said, “Sorry, but I’m not Charlie.”

The Week reported on the issue of “Je suis Charlie,” providing a list of explanations as to why some people have opted to say they aren’t Charlie. Among those who believe “Je suis Charlie” supports religious intolerance is the president of the Catholic League, Bill Donohue. Donohue has sided with Muslims in the debate, claiming the following.

“What unites Muslims in their anger against Charlie Hebdo is the vulgar manner in which Muhammad has been portrayed. What they object to is being intentionally insulted over the course of many years. On this aspect, I am in total agreement with them.”

The Week also criticized the “Je suis Charlie” supporters by claiming that it’s not smart or courageous to “bait” religious extremists like radical Muslims.

Simon Kelner of the Independent criticized the useless nature of the “Je suis Charlie” catchphrase itself, claiming it has no real power to evoke change.

“What does it mean anyway?… I am Charlie? Really? I understand that it is, on a one-dimensional level, a well-meaning expression of support for relatives, friends and colleagues of those who died in the attack on Charlie Hebdo last week, but I am not Charlie, any more than George Clooney or Helen Mirren is.”

Would you choose to say “Je suis Charlie” or “Je ne suis Charlie”? Who do you support in the “Je suis Charlie” debate?