Twelve people are dead after two men stormed the offices of a satirical newspaper in Paris.
Two armed men entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine known for printing comics some readers may find offensive, including depictions of the prophet Muhammad. The two men can be seen in videos taken by bystanders wielding AK-47 assault rifles yelling “Allahu Akbar!” translating to “God is great!” in Arabic.
The following two days would be marked by a massive manhunt conducted by French police. According to the New York Times “France’s interior minister announced that 88,000 police and security forces had been deployed throughout the country.” By Friday, police had diffused two hostage situations, which raised the body count to 21 dead, including the two suspects.
After attacking the offices of the satirical newspaper, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie began surfacing on twitter and quickly became viral. Translated from French, Je Suis Charlie means I am Charlie, which serves as an empathetic message to the lives that were lost.
In response to some of the Islamophobia that occurred after the attack, Dyab Abou Jahjah, an Arab political activist tweeted the message, “I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so.” Along with the message, he began the hashtag #JeSuisAhmed that promptly received 4,000 retweets within four hours of posting.
Though this is not the only instance of this form of dialogue occurring, since the attack the media has carried on conversations of the Islam religion debunking some of the cultural myths. Reza Aslan, religious scholar and professor at the University of California at Riverside, has appeared on live CNN, NBC, and USA Today talking about the matter very fluently.
In an interview with NBC he stated, “What really I think puts an obstacle in the way is opinions like Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s and so many others in the political and the media mainstream who continue to say that 1.7 billion people are responsible for the actions of these extremists. That doesn’t help the fight against radicalism. The answer to Islamic violence is Islamic peace. The answer to Islamic bigotry is Islamic pluralism, and so that’s why I put the onus on the Muslim community, but I also recognize that that work is being done.”
Whether tweeters are for Charlie or Ahmed, free speech will continue to guide this conversation.