Professors React to Je Suis Charlie

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Professors React to Je Suis Charlie

In the panel, the professors discussed everything from the attacks to freedom of speech.

In the panel, the professors discussed everything from the attacks to freedom of speech.

In the panel, the professors discussed everything from the attacks to freedom of speech.

In the panel, the professors discussed everything from the attacks to freedom of speech.

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The recent terrorist attacks at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris not only came as a shock, but have also incited many complex discussions about the meaning of freedom of speech. In this Tuesday’s packed lecture in the Stern Center, titled “Charlie Hebdo Tragedy: An International Perspective,” four professors from various departments came together to continue the conversation through a panel discussion.

Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies Kristine Mitchell, who moderated the event, first asked the question whether religious fundamentalism is compatible with the West. As Associate Professor and department chair of Political Science and International Studies Edward Webb mentioned, “It is possible to have religious beliefs and still make those compatible with democratic values, especially considering the example of Turkey. Islam is large and contains multitudes – there are a number of different political possibilities and some are extreme.” Neil Diamant, Professor of East Asian Studies, added that “all sorts of fundamentalisms tend to be incompatible because democracy depends on tolerance. Mitchell also noted “the stereotypes of Islam and the problem of the West claiming democracy as its own. We need to ask the same questions of western religions.”

In terms of the connection of the attacks to acts of anti-Semitism, Associate Professor and department chair of French Dominique Laurent stated, “Charlie Hebdo obscures the other act of violence, which clearly shows the differences in how each event was responded to and reported. Those at the newspaper were killed for what they did, whereas those who were shopping [at the Kosher supermarket] were killed for who they were. When the news reported this event, those involved were called hostages and not Jews.”

When discussing to what extent this violence represented the so-called “Clash of Civilizations” proposed by Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, Webb stressed the need to complicate this “clash.” He said, “The idea of je suis Charlie and je suis Ahmed shows how this issue is not just a clash. On the one hand, Muslims felt they were being attacked by a newspaper’s right to be offensive. Although satire as comedy can be a powerful weapon, it should not beat down on or beat against others.” Laurent also noted, “The right to freedom of speech in France is as strongly fought for as the right in America to bear arms. However, there needs to be a compromise: Charlie Hebdo needs to realize its place in our modern society and tone down in order to have respect. The French government should continue to be communicative and integrate its Arab community so that we can work with democracy.”

The students in attendance reacted positively to the lecture. Danette Moore ’15 said, “The panel raised poignant questions, especially talking about the integration of Muslims into European society. Marginalization does lead to radicalism, and rooting that out will be important.” Devon Caldwell ’15 agreed: “I thought the panel was made up very well and the four speakers brought different perspectives of international regions.” Emily Fineberg ’15 was “pleased to see the incorporation of the Kosher supermarket in the discussions. I did not expect that, but think that is also an important issue to discuss.” Sarah Goslin ’15 stated, “I thought it was good that there were so many international perspectives, especially the French view. It is good that professors are invested in current events and how to apply them to class discussions.”

Students who are interested in discussing or hearing more about these issues should attend Thursday’s round table discussion hosted by the Union Philosophical Society in Denny 317 at 8 p.m.

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