Who knows how many thousands, probably millions, of people have rallied to the cry of “Je Suis Charlie” in the last few days. Are they all Charlie Hebdo readers? Of course not. Most, in the wider global community, had probably never heard of Charlie Hebdo before last week. Few would probably subscribe to the offensive and frequently vile content of Charlie Hebdo.
“Je Suis Charlie”. It’s hard to make an articulate and comprehensive argument in three words. But one thing is clear, the majority of people were not saying, “I agree with Charlie”. Charlie Hebdo it seems was one of the more disagreeable and unlikeable publications to ever get into print.
But “I am Charlie” in the sense that my participation in a free society, my right to have an opinion and to express it, is based on exactly the same rights as allow Charlie Hebdo to exist - despite what I may think of it. If Charlie Hebdo can not speak, then neither can I - Je Suis Charlie.
As the well known saying goes (usually misattributed to Voltaire) “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” - Je Suis Charlie, indeed.