On any given day — and on this Sunday in particular — let all of us who embrace the paramount ideals of freedom of speech and press pause to reflect on the massacre in Paris and the loss of so many champions of free thought and journalistic and artistic expression.
Media outlets the world over have been presented with an opportunity to demonstrate solidarity. On principle, newspapers, both online and print, should lend space to Charlie Hebdo and run past cartoons and articles. Political satire is a sophisticated art and should in no way be curtailed by this tragedy. In point of fact, political satirists are some of the best informed persons on the planet! Certainly, there is risk, but can terrorists target every outlet? No. And naysayers to this invitation to uphold free speech and free press should be warned: if terrorists are allowed to prevail in this matter, they will surely be emboldened to continue. And this threatens everyone, everywhere, as no group can be excluded from potential suppression. Today’s silent majority may well become tomorrow’s target.
Religious extremism is nothing new. What is especially troubling about Islamic extremism, beyond its aims of eroding individual and collective freedoms, is the damage it is doing to the Islamic community overall, in large part by being the loudest talking point in relation to Islam. Violence committed in the name of religion threatens to drown out the voices of the sensible majority. Too rarely do we read and hear about that majority, and this dissuades us from looking too deeply, thinking too critically, and availing ourselves of opportunities to see the greater Muslim community as assimilated, culturally enriching, and philosophically moderate. Therefore, news media must make a sincere effort to paint a balanced, objective portrait of that Muslim community, by providing as many column inches to positive portrayals of that sensible majority so that the public is continuously confronted with the reality that extremism is not synonymous with Islam.