Charlie Hebdo Reveals Failure in Understanding Values

The terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo magazine was an unjustified act of violence.


A woman lights a candle on a makeshift alter including signs that read in French “I am Charlie” during a vigil in solidarity with those killed in an attack at the Paris offices of the weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, outside France’s embassy in Mexico City. Credit: AP

Those carrying out the attack meant to infuse a vicious circle of hatred and divide, and may have succeeded in doing so. However, as common citizens of this world we need to avoid pointing fingers and instead unite as the one human race against this vicious aim.

Violence is not a response to such acts, especially if those targeted are innocent civilians. If this happens, it perfectly serves the intention of those that want to instill hatred. A more responsible response would be to identify the cause of such incidents and unite together to confront it.

The unfortunate incidents in Paris, however, outlined two important lessons that all need to learn:

1.  Freedom of speech and press in the liberal West are hard earned values.

While every human-being has a right to express their views, this freedom, even in humor, should responsibly encourage respect, unity, understanding and trust among the entire public. Freedom of speech could be more effective if it is address resolving social issues such as grievances, inequality and discrimination.

2.  The Muslim world constantly faces incidents of offensive media messages about their faith.

Such messages or drawings are usually produced by non-Muslims who have limited understanding of their Abrahamic religion. The response to such messages or drawings cannot and must not be violence. Islam does not allow that. Instead the Muslim world should respond to such incidents with care, respect and tolerance.

They could be much more effective if they start educating and show to the non-Muslim world that their religion is peaceful and that it is the same as that of Prophet Abraham, who built the Kabba in Mecca. Non-Muslims should know that Muslims recite five times in their prayers every day that “Oh God! bless us Muslims as you have blessed Abraham and his sons.” Also, non-Muslims should understand that our faith forbids the depiction of the prophet or God because it can lead to idolatry, which is forbidden in Islam.

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If all sides learn these lessons and put more effort into building their understanding of each others values, we may be able to unite against violence and live in a peaceful and just world. Otherwise, even cartoons can incite violence, fear and divide.

Moheb Arsalan Jabarkhail is an Afghan analyst and writer on the governance and socioeconomic development affairs of Afghanistan and the region. After studying Economics at Kabul University and Bard College in New York as a Fulbright 2003-2007, Moheb studied for Master in Public Policy and Governance at Willy Brandt School of Public Policy in Germany 2010-2012. He also has extensive experience of working on development programs with various organizations in and out of Afghanistan. He is currently based in Kabul and can be reached at