Freedom isn’t free. That refrain has danced in my head since the tragic murders of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.
The satirical publication had long faced threats from Islamic extremists who believed the magazine’s cartoons insulted the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.
In 2011, the threats morphed into violence when the magazine’s offices were bombed. And on Wednesday, disaster struck when gunmen burst in and shot a dozen people to death.
I have seen the cartoons in question, and while I am not a Muslim, I believe the drawings were disrespectful.
And while my personal journalistic ethics compel me to avoid disrespecting the sacred beliefs of others without good reason, I defend the right of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists to freely express themselves.
In a free society, even unpopular speech must not be quelled by violence.
That’s why I believe Cherif and Said Kouachi, the gunmen who allegedly attacked the magazine’s offices and were subsequently killed in a raid by French police, did harm to their cause.
They answered ignorance about their religion with violence that did not reflect their religion’s true nature. In doing so, they stirred up a cauldron of hate.
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Photo: Paris demonstration following the killings at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. By Ben Ledbetter, Architect (From the New York Times) / Flickr Creative Commons