Je Suis Charlie by Danna Samhan

Tomb of Bernard Verlhac at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. (Photo by Danna Samhan CC by 4.0) 

Je Suis Charlie 
By Danna Samhan, FIU Honors College
July 2016

Here Lies Bernard Verlhac at the age of 57, known under the name of Tignous. Father of four, career oriented, published author. Titled by the Worldwide Wildlife Foundation as “A Friend of the pandas and the Earth.” A member of Cartoonists for Peace. Loved by many, hated by many. He is buried here today as a symbol of the French people, killed for using his voice – for sparking and provoking thought that made others uncomfortable. He had the artistic ability to make a joke or create a stance out of any matter going on in the world. Whether it be on religious groups, or political views, Tignous was drawing out scenarios to mock them, mock them well. For almost 35 years he was a cartoonists for the legendary satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo

On January 7, 2015 at 11:30 am Tignous lost his life in a mass shooting. He lost his life by two Islamic shooters who had claims to be defending the religion of Islam…in which Islam did not need any form of defending.

Bernard Verlhac was the embodiment of Je Suis Charlie, cartoonists who was not afraid of using his talent. His cartoons were symbolic to the kind of person he was. A light-hearted French man who believed anyone could be a target, since we are all equal. For that reason his funeral service allowed his fans and fellow loved ones to create their own cartoons on his coffin to honor the kind of man that he was.

Our similarities? Using our talent to start opinions. To have people thinking for themselves on what they enjoyed or what pissed them off.

Bernard Verlhac – Tu Es Charlie

Charlie Hebdo has been known to spotlight any group and has found a way to create a laugh out of their views or beliefs…. as well as grind their gears.

Charlie Hebdo has been targeted by extremist Islamic groups for mocking the Islamic Faith. The Editor in Chief was even #3 on the most wanted list by Al Qaeda. In no way is it allowed in the religion to idolize a figure. Religious or not. Even my own mother refuses to have a Buddha figure in her home for fear of going to Hell. There is no such thing as having photos or statues and figurines of Allah or the Prophet Mohammad hanging in our homes or in our mosques. It is seen as a sign of disrespect to Allah and the faith for humanizing such a high power. So of course the newspaper used that to their advantage as a joke.

This is where my clash comes in, where the collision of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion meet. France takes pride in having liberty and freedom to all of its citizens, each citizen is allowed to speak freely and practice freely without having to face repercussions. The same fundamentals that the United States used to form the nation. Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper that takes pride in having no filter, did what they saw fitting – and each and every single one of us gets to decide how we perceive it. Charlie Hebdo, like myself live by the saying “offense cannot be given only taken”

I believe we are all entitled to our own beliefs and opinions; we are human who have our own minds that can formulate thoughts individually. But as a Muslim, there is a small stop sign that reminds me I cannot disrespect or make a mockery out of the religion that I was born and raised into, that I today still practice. As an Islamic women growing in a free society – I am not offended by the drawing, but understand where others would be.

Danna Samhan and her France 2016 class of FIU Honors in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. (Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0)

For me? Danna Samhan – Je Suis Charlie, Je Suis Islam.

The Islam the media what’s you to know is the terrorist groups and individuals who seek to frighten others with their threats and attacks. The Islam the media what’s you to know has struck down on France repeatedly, attack after attack for the country being so prideful and free; everything they’re against. It is the same Islam that has you thinking “Allahu Akbar” means an attack is coming your way rather than God is the Greatest. The Islam the media wants you to know is extremists and radical using the religion as an excuse for their actions.

A result of this; media propaganda has resulted to millions of displaced Muslims spread out throughout the world because no government wants to aid them in refuge. It means Syrians who are on the streets, helpless are still being depicted as members of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and so forth. Muslims today are exiled from society because of their religious belief, even though Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. It means there are young men who are taken off a plane for saying InshAllah “God Willing” on the phone. Or beaten in a hotel because they wear traditional Islamic clothing. It means Muslims like me are strip searched at Israeli Borders and stopped randomly at TSA lines because my middle name is Mohammad.

The Islam I know is meant to promote and spread peace to those around me. I was taught to always give to those who do not have and be thankful for what I have. To never judge anyone based off their opinions and beliefs. The Islam I know taught me that we are all one in the same, brother and sister; human.

It is up to you to decide whether or not Bernard Verlhac died because of two Islamic men who represent the entire religion or if it was by two extremist men who harbored hostility and anger – what the Quran teaches us not to have.

It is up to you to decide how you want to depict an entire religion – which has the same fundamental beliefs as Judaism and Christianity – judge one of them, judge them all.

Charlie Hebdo, a week after the attack, published on the cover “All Is Forgiven” because they understood it was the killers’ fault. Not anyone else, not any other group.

Je Suis Charlie
Bernard – Tu Es Charlie
Are you Charlie as well?

Author: John William Bailly

Professor/Painter/Study Abroad Faculty Director FIU Honors College

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