To quote former PM of Norway Jens Stoltenberg after the 2011 attacks in Oslo and Utøya: “the answer to the attacks must be more democracy and more openness. Otherwise, those who were behind them will have achieved their goals.”

 I can’t believe the news today, I can’t close my eyes and make it go away…

First came the disbelief. This could not be happening, not in France, not to them, not to 12 of them. They just couldn’t kill so many talents, so many symbols at once. Then came the rage. How dared they kill people that have been fighting their whole life for freedom and tolerance ? What kind of monsters would do that ? How stupid could one be?

And now comes the sadness. The sadness about the incredible loss we are suffering. About all those people killed, about the laughs we won’t have anymore. They were able to make fun of everyone and everything in the most corrosive way, without being mean or disrespectful. They represented this very French idea that you can have political ideas and spend your whole life making fun of them, that you can be a pessimist while deeply loving life, that you can laugh about everything and still be kind.

They will be missed. And remembered forever as there are now 66 millions Charlies in France and much more around the world. There has already been many tributes to those wonderful people, many better than anything I could write. But as so many of us, I feel it is impossible to stay silent.

We need to say again and again that it is not acceptable to have people die for criticising a religion. That criticising a dogma is NOT a form of hate speech. Criticising a religion (a country, a political party) isn’t the same as insulting people. And generally, that we should have a right to blasphemy. Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Spain, France (in Alsace Moselle), Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia still have laws relating to blasphemy, or to the similar offence of ‘religious insult‘.

And that this should in no way lead to death (or to governmental repression for that matter:

A hundred lashes if you don't die laughing

A hundred lashes if you don’t die laughing

Charlie Hebdo has been fighting discrimination and intolerance for decades. It is a great sadness to see how wrong their murderers were to think that they were their enemies. How wrong they were to kill the very people that had been defending all minorities again and again against the growing intolerance and populism in France.

It would be a terrible mistake to give in to amalgams and intolerance out of grief. To listen to Marine Le Pen and her wish to bring back death penalty against murderers. It would kill again those who have always been very clear about their opinion of the far right to know their death would help it get its way.

As tough as it can be to be tolerant in time of grief and anger, it is still the best way to combat the ideas that have been killing them. To quote former PM of Norway Jens Stoltenberg after the 2011 attacks in Oslo and Utøya: “the answer to the attacks must be more democracy and more openness. Otherwise, those who were behind them will have achieved their goals.”

And this is exactly what we need to do in order to pay our tribute to Charlie’s lost ones: speak up for democracy and freedom of expression, keep loving, keep being tolerant and keep laughing.


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Aurélie Wielchuda

Aurélie is a feminist based in Brussels.

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