Last Wednesday, January 7, 12 people were killed in what is now considered an extremist terrorist attack on satirical newspaper “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris, France. The newspaper had published a series of “inflammatory cartoons” satirically depicting the Prophet Muhammed and denouncing other aspects of Islamic religion. While exercising their absolute right to freedom of speech, the cartoonists had purportedly received a number of threats over the years from offended individuals.
In the wake of this event, many LHS students have taken to social media to share their views and stand in solidarity with the rest of the world. Using the “#JesuisCharlie” hashtag on sites like Twitter and Instagram, students have not only been able to keep up with the news, but also contribute to the dialogue.
Perhaps the most vocal (and rightly so) students have been those with French heritage and culture. Senior Hugo Ogilvie’s mother was born in Paris, while his aunts, uncles and cousins still live there. After seeing the overwhelming amount of support from people all over the world, Ogilvie was heart warmed. However, he also noticed a particularly disconcerting trend.
For every picture or post of support, there were often pages of comments, at least half of which appeared to be apologies.
“These comments especially aggravated me,” said Ogilvie. “I found it a shame that the actions of these terrorists made Muslims across the world feel the need to apologize even though they had nothing to do with the attack.”
The broader Denver community has also rallied together to show support. Senior Lou Deville Kuenzlen joined nearly 100 others in Civic Center Park on Sunday for a demonstration of honoring those killed and condemning terror. Kuenzlen, who was born in France and has family there, took to social media after news of the attack surfaced.
“It’s just so unfortunate. The fact that people were being attacked for their ideas is what makes people the most upset,” said Kuenzlen.
After living in predominantly Islamic countries her entire life, Kuenzlen agreed that one of the greater tragedies of this event was the way that Muslims may be perceived as a result.
“So many [Muslims] are such good people, so it’s just so sad to me that they’re now being lumped together as all being bad people. So many of our family’s best friends are Muslim, so that makes it really hard to see this perception of them,” said Kuenzlen.
While upset and heartbroken over the events in Paris, Ogilvie and Kuenzlen both do a fantastic job of reminding us all to see this event not as a “Muslim attack”, but rather as a violation of the right to free speech. Even though it hits quite close to home, they both have kept in mind that this is not representative of a religion or people as a whole, and nor should it be treated as such.