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Je suis Charlie

As I write this, I am watching a tribute to the victims of the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris today. Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French magazine, was targeted by terrorists today. In an attack by two gunmen, twelve lost their lives, including nine employees, two policeman, and a building maintenance man. The suspected motivation was revenge for publishing cartoons satirising the Prophet Mohammed. The magazine has received so many serious threats that the editor had hired bodyguards and a policeman guarded the office.  

I immediately thought of Edward Bulwer-Lytton's famous quote, "The pen is mightier than the sword." Today, it does not appear to be true. But in my hope that one day it will be, I had to pick up my pen. "Je suis Charlie." "I am Charlie." I uphold freedom of speech, freedom from terror, and pray for courage for those who risk their lives by speaking their truths. One day that could be me. I would be honoured to have such an influential voice. 

I cannot comprehend how someone can believe that God is honoured, not blasphemed, by the murder of twelve people, for no greater sin than not adhering to the tenets of a religion they don't adhere to. Perhaps some of them were even Muslim, but held a different perspective on their religion than the killers.

What is the cry for peace in the face of such a tragedy?

First, to shed tears for the loss of life of the victims. May they rest in peace, and may their values of freedom of expression live on.

Second, to remember that most Muslims condemn this violence, and not to condem the innocent with the guilty.

Third, to respect how seriously some people hold their faith, and avoiding offending them. As I writer, I enjoy and strongly defend the freedom of speech, as long as my freedom does not impinge on others'. For example, hate speech is illegal in Canada. How closely should journalists respect Islam's prohibition on images of the Prophet, or at least avoid offensive cartoons of him? If the motivation for curtailing the freedom of speech is respect for others rather than being silenced from fear, is it an honourable stand? 

Let's enjoy our freedom, while respecting others' freedoms - especially the freedom of life.

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