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Je Suis Charlie... Still!

Charlie Hebdo represents true freedom.

It's hard to believe that four years have passed since the brutal attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, France.

If you recall, on January 7, 2015, Islamic terrorists entered the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, killing 11 and injuring 12. The extremists were upset that the magazine had printed cartoons depicting their prophet, Mohammad.

In the aftermath of the horrific event, the phrase "Je Suis Charlie" popped up as a way of showing solidarity with those were killed, and as a way to say, "I support freedom of expression!"

While some showed their solidarity, others took aim at Charlie Hebdo, however, criticizing them for drawing the cartoons. They were accused of provoking the murderers by drawing something they shouldn't have drawn. Yup, people were actually blaming the cartoonists at the magazine for their own deaths.

I was Charlie in 2015, and I am still Charlie. The way I see it is ANYONE that puts pen to paper, to either draw or write, must support freedom of speech and freedom of expression. If you don't, you are shooting yourself in the foot. The idea that any artist in any discipline should support censorship is ridiculous. And those who criticized Charlie Hebdo for drawing pictures of the prophet are way off the mark.

Now, people have the right to criticize. If they don't like something, fine, speak out, say you don't like it, complain, protest, do you what you want. That's freedom of expression as well, whether I agree with the message or not. I support you. But the minute we start either condoning violence or outright committing violence as a way to shut people up or censor them, then we've gone WAY too far. We must fight against the forces that would do this in our free societies.

No one should DIE for drawing a cartoon of anything. No one should go to prison for writing a book. No one should have to live in fear for expressing their thoughts. That doesn't mean one has to agree with all thoughts expressed. It just means that we, as a society, must be able to deal with ideas expressed with peaceful open discussion and debate.

The issue with Charlie Hebdo's drawings were that they were seen as blasphemous by people who take their religion just a wee bit too seriously. The thing is, there aren't blasphemy laws in France. One is free to draw historical religious figures like Mohammad. And people SHOULD be free to draw him. The only ones who shouldn't be allowed to draw him are those who have chosen themselves not to draw him because of their religious beliefs. That's it.

But there are those that disagree and feel that blasphemy should be illegal, and worse, that they should pay for blasphemy with their lives. The consequences that the staff at Charlie Hebdo suffered is just one example. Another example is when Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses and had to go into hiding for 10 years because the ruler of Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini, called for all Muslims to kill him. There were mass protests around the Muslim world AND in the West. All over a book.

In fact, there are 13 countries in the world where one can face the death penalty for blasphemy, according to the Independent. All 13 are Muslim majority countries: Afghanistan, Iran, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen all will put blasphemers in prison at least... but do have laws that allow for the death penalty. So it's not some obscure idea we are talking about. It's a fairly widespread belief, the idea that people should be killed for blasphemy, which is an issue of free speech.

The Charlie Hebdo murderers believed that God's laws override the man-made laws, and took it in their hands to deliver justice for what they see as the crime of insulting the prophet... an act of blasphemy.

And as a result, 11 people died. Because there are people in the world who believe that they have the right to decide what a person can or cannot draw, 11 people died. 11 people died over a cartoon. 11 people exercising their right to freedom of expression and speech died doing so. This is absurd. This is insane. This is why I am and always will be... Charlie.