“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,” is a quote often misattributed to Voltaire. It was actually used by Evelyn Beatrice Hall (who, in 1906, wrote ‘The Friends of Voltaire’ under the nom de plume of S. G. Tallentyre) to illustrate Voltaire’s attitude towards censorship laws at the time.
I find it timely to refer to these words alluding to the principles behind freedom of expression, particularly in wake of the current tumultuous state of global affairs. Now, I consider myself ill-informed when it comes to commentary on politics. As much as I would like to write about current affairs, my concern about not knowing all sides of the coin, so to speak, prevents me from voicing my views. However, I would like to think that I possess a basic concept of what is right and what is wrong. And when a person or group of people cannot be open to others having views, opinions or beliefs different to their own, and take subsequent action which results in loss of life, fear, terror and destruction, there is categorically no conceivable justification.
I cannot even begin to imagine the ripple effects of global terrorist events of the past weeks: from the massacre of school children in Pakistan, to the most recent Charlie Hebdo attack in France. The “Je suis Charlie” campaign caught my interest because at its heart, it enables even those of us far-removed to identify with the universal outpouring of empathy. (Presuming of course, that Je suis Charlie is read as the mostly-intended defiant solidarity claim: “I am Charlie too, and any attack on Charlie, is an attack on me”, and not the alternative “I follow Charlie”)
I think it pertinent to point out, what whilst we are all ‘Charlies’ in our respective ways, the bottom line is that we are also all unique individuals. We have our preferences, our opinions, our likes and dislikes. And it is this very individuality that makes up the myriad facets of diverse global cultures. I am grateful for knowing friends and
foes strangers alike, who do not always see eye-to-eye with me. It is from them that I learn more than I ever can from those who always share the same views as myself. So I shall end with this, Oui, je suis Charlie, mais par-dessus tout, je suis Saneeya.
Saneeya Qureshi © 2015