Three squares and Freedom of Expression

I often refrain from engaging in stories that have appeared on the news on this blog. After all, whoever reads this usually does so for the same reason we read books and watch movies – to escape the turgid realities of our everyday lives.

But on this subject I cannot, in good conscience, remain silent. As usual I am late to the party, especially after the hashtag  Charlie Hebdo is still trending and will be for weeks to come. This attack shook the world at it’s core – not because of the violent and wanton killing (although that’s always horrifying) but because the attack was  on a comic newspaper.

The victims were not soldiers, or even activists. They were writers – much like I am. So the situation begets the following question: how long before every writer is targeted? How long before every comic is targeted? Every actor, producer, dancer, singer?

Art is the ultimate form of expression and once you limit that, then you limit people’s sacred right to think in whichever ways they want to think.

I appreciate the fact that a lot of people have finally made the distinction between the Muslim religion and these terrorists – and the distinction is large. I won’t tell you what’s written in the Quran because I do not know. But I can tell you with absolute certainty that in no part of any holy text is there a call to violent action.

Religions were created as communities: people coming together under the belief that their god exists and therefore they must live their lives to appease that deity. Terrorist actions go against the community, every single one go them, and therefore is against the fundamental nature of a religion.

Most of you may be questioning what I titled the blog Three squares and Freedom of Expression. The reason is simple: this is what we all want. Most of us do not have a political or military agenda. We simply want to go on with our lives, go back to our families and live happily ever after. We want to carry on being ourselves.

And that is exactly how we will stop this wave of terror. These people, who use weapons and fear as their tools, rely on us being intimidated and afraid of them to control us. But they stop being ‘terror’ists the moment we stop allowing them to manipulate our fear. I’m not saying to not be afraid.

I’m saying to not remain afraid.

This is not a call to violence. Violence is the tool of the coward. No, this is a call to endure. A call to carry on with our lives, a call to keep on publishing satirical newspapers, to keep on expressing ourselves as we do, because the worst thing you can do to someone is simply not give them the time of day.

The worst thing you can do to someone is not acknowledging their existence.

So don’t be afraid to go out and be yourself. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. If you want to start writing or creating, there is no time like the present.

This is how this war will be won – not by guns and bullets, but my standing tall and proud and saying “I am who I am and you cannot change that.”

Je suis Charlie.

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