Butt of the Joke


art by Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi

Multiple Authors

art by Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi
art by Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi

Humor and the Line

Three simple words. They were first used in France, hastily scrawled onto note cards. Soon, they spread across Europe, then to America then to Asia. The words found their way online, in the form of Twitter hashtags and instagram selfies. They were used in posters for rallies and protests. In less than a week, these words had become a rallying call; a slogan that had spread across the world. Three simple words: Je Suis Charlie. I Am Charlie.
Many started using this phrase to showcase their belief in the right to free speech when, on Jan. 7, two gunmen forced their way into the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine and opened fire, killing 12.
The gunmen took offense to the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam, published in the magazine. In the days that followed, the attack fueled a debate over the freedom of speech, with prominent political and religious leaders speaking out.
Some, like Pope Francis, believed the magazine took ‘freedom of expression’ too far, while others, like UK Prime Minister David Cameron, said freedom of speech should have no limitations at any cost.
This debate over freedom of speech has found its way into the U.S. media and politics, as well. Again and again, people ask the same question: Did Charlie Hebdo have the right to depict the Prophet Muhammad?
To some, like Humanities teacher Jim Meyer, the answer is simple. While the decision may not have been smart, Meyer said, according to the law in France, the magazine did not do anything wrong in publishing such images.
“Yes, in a legal sense, [Charlie Hebdo magazine] did have the right,” Meyer said. “The French government goes out of its way to ensure particular civil rights, not unlike the way our Bill of Right does.”
However, to senior Alex Parks, this situation is more complex than it initially seems. While the obvious answer might be to support an individual’s freedom of speech and the actions committed by the gunmen was extreme, Parks said, laws in each country are different, and France already has limitations against free speech that need to be considered.
“Philosophically speaking, I believe they had the right to depict Muhammad although I’m sure they would be aware of the consequences of their actions,” Parks said. “However, with censorship in France and their constitutional rights outlined by their government in mind, I am more on the fence about whether or not they had the right to [depict Prophet Muhammad]. Censorship in France is almost non-existent but acts have been put in place that prohibit racial hatred.”
This issue of the right to free speech, however, went far beyond the Paris attacks. Shortly after the fatal shooting, Charlie Hebdo released a controversial new edition of the magazine with a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad once again depicted on the cover as an attempt to display their right to free speech. While he defends their right to publish such things, Meyer said, that does not mean he promotes their work.
“It really goes out of its way to either call into question and,or offend a lot of social, political, and religious, generally minorities. I would defend their right to do so,” Meyer said. “But in doing so, I am in no way condoning the particular things they are saying.”
Before its release, members from the Muslim community asked the cover to be pulled, saying the cover was disrespectful and incited racial hatred. Despite this, Charlie Hebdo published the cover. Some were upset by the attempt to change the covering and saw it as an attempt to limit freedom of expression. However, Parks said the request to have the cover pulled was not unreasonable.
“People had the right to be upset and ask to pull the cartoon,” Parks said. “Everyone has the right to feel upset and to take action for their self-interest.”

“It really goes out of its way to either call into question and,or offend a lot of social, political, and religious, generally minorities. I would defend their right to do so. But in doing so, I am in no way condoning the particular things they are saying.”—Jim Meyer

Following the attack, many applauded Charlie Hebdo’s decision to publish another depiction of the Prophet Muhammad. Instead of hastily “picking a side,” Meyer said, it is important to understand the magazines reasons behind these depictions.
“To me, the really important thing is are they satirizing from a point of informed knowledge or are they satirizing from a point of lazy stereotypes,” Meyer said, “ because if they are doing the latter, we exercise our rights at a cost. I would ask them, ‘Is it worth that cost?’ And by cost, I don’t mean murder; I mean … a kind of social acceptance or lack thereof.”
To some, the issue is more black and white. The publishing was not the correct response to the shooting, senior Betsy Poehlman said, and only exacerbated tensions on either side.
“There is a fine line between joking and making offensive comments, or using jokes to cover offensive stuff,” Poehlman said. “[Charlie Hebdo] should have been more cautious the second time and really think about who [they] are disrespecting.”
In the days since the attack, it has been hard to appease both ardent supporters of freedom of expression and members of different religious organizations. These members do not want to see their religious leaders and founders disrespected.
While the government can’t regulate speech, Parks said people need to keep in mind the implications of what they say.
“A lot of people, entities and organizations take freedom of speech too far a majority of the time. There needs to be a balance between freedom of speech and respecting different cultures as well as being more open to criticism and humor,” Parks said. “But speech should never be limited by governmental regulations. It should be limited by common sense and logical thinking of an individual.”
This attack has ignited a debate about freedom of expression; one that is still the topic of much media and political attention. And while “Je Suis Charlie” can be an easy catch phrase to embrace, Meyer said, he does not consider himself to be a “Charlie.”
“I’m not Charlie because I’m not French, and I’m not living under those particular government’s rules. I’m not Charlie because I’m not risking my life,” Meyer said. “ But I am also not Charlie because I don’t think Charlie is making, always, appropriate or helpful contributions to what is an important debate—a debate [about] free speech.”
By Humera Lodhi

Dying for Change

Communist China’s Tiananmen Squareflag outline

On June 4, 1989, a date now known for the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Chinese military attacked student protesters in an effort to silence their cries. The Chinese government called the protest in the Beijing Tiananmen Square a “counter-revolutionary riot” and ordered the military to fire on the unarmed crowd.
As many as 300,000 Chinese troops were called to the scene after the government declared martial law on May 20. Fifteen days later, the bloodshed began. After the crackdown, anyone working in the government who was sympathetic with the protesters was fired and foreign journalists were forced to leave the country.
According to official figures, 200 to 300 people were killed. However, unofficial estimates put the death toll above 2,000. To this day, people in China are prohibited from speaking about the event.

Nazi regime cuts White RosePrint

A group of students from the University of Munich in Germany and their philosophy professor distributed anonymous leaflets that called for an active opposition to Adolf Hitler’s rule.
From June 1942 until their arrest in February 1943, the group, named the White Rose, spread papers around that used historic documents, including the Bible and Aristotle’s works, to convince people that the Nazi government was atrocious.
On Feb. 18, the Nazis arrested the active members of the White Rose. Four days later, they were tried and beheaded in public.

Egypt coup’s dead protestersflag outline

On July 3, 2013, the Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi along with a coalition of high-ranking military officials overthrew the democratically-elected President Mohammad Morsi.
A new constitution was instituted and Morsi was imprisoned. Ever since then, protests have come and gone around Egypt opposing the coup planned by now-President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
The police force in Egypt killed 15 protesters on Jan. 25, 2015 and left dozens injured and in 2014, dozens of people were killed in a similar way, according to the BBC.
art and stories by Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi

Minorities Blamed

At one point or another, in every single country on Earth, minority populations have been persecuted, harassed and humiliated.
It is not news that during World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were rounded up and placed in concentration camps in America because the U.S. government was afraid they were enemies of the state.
In Germany, non-Aryans were thrown in concentration camps and killed. In Russia, the ethnic Tatars who lived in present-day Crimea were murdered in the tens of millions during World War II because they were different.
A large minority in France is the Muslim population.
“The challenges of some of these European states and communities that are allowing lots of immigration from especially the ISIS-held territories and allowing a lot of refuges [is] allowing certain people freedom of movement between Syria or Yemen,” AP World History teacher Greg Irwin said. “You might have a young disaffected person go to some of these terrorist groups and training camps [and] there [are] challenges that go with that.”

art by Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi
art by Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi
In Paris Jan. 7, 11 people were murdered inside the headquarters of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Then, a police officer was slain on the sidewalk outside of the headquarters. Later that day, gunmen killed five innocent civilians shopping at a kosher grocery store in another part of France.
“We’ve lived in a post-9/11 world long enough that anyone who is an educated person and is aware of what is happening in the world knows that this is not true Islam, This is a corrupt ideology that has some claims to have roots in something,” Irwin said. “Just as Westboro Baptist is to Christianity, so are Al-Qaeda or the [Paris attackers] are to Islam. They are non-factors, non realities, and I just think the big reality is that here in the USA the Muslim immigrants and the Muslim citizens’ association with these [extremists] just need to die, and we should let it die.”
As with most, if not all, other terrorist attacks committed by Muslims, minority Muslims in France are experiencing the harm resulting from the actions of the extremists who chose to take up arms against satirical cartoonists. According to the Associated Press, the number of anti-Muslim attacks since the events of the Charlie Hebdo massacre has surpassed the number of attacks in the entire year of 2014.
“When I first heard about the attacks and the 12 dead, I didn’t really hear who it was [committed] by,” Noah Mefrakis, a Muslim student at RBHS, said. “But I assumed they were going to say the attackers were Muslims.”
Mefrakis said he never faced bigotry from his peers, but he has Muslim friends who went through cases of blind hatred.
“There have been times in my freshman year of high school when I was still at West Junior where there were individuals who seemed pretty serious when they called me a terrorist,” senior Alp Kahveci said. “I didn’t respond to them, and I cut off my relationship with them because they became pretty annoying.”
While Mefrakis and Kahveci both believe the actions of the attackers are not justifiable in anyway, they also think Charlie Hebdo shouldn’t have printed the cartoons of Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam. They say doing so provoked the attackers to do what they did.
Many prominent and famous figures have Mefrakis’ same views. Last week in an interview in the Philippines, the Pope said that while the violence is not justified, people should not provoke, insult or make fun of other people’s religion. Others, like Rupert Murdoch, owner of a multi-national news organization, believe the Muslim population at large should apologize for the actions of these terrorists. Irwin believes it doesn’t matter whether or not a Muslim in Columbia or anywhere condemns the attacks because the only people responsible for them are the people who did them.
“It is degrading to ask … Muslims [to condemn] these acts. These are extremists from all sorts,” Irwin said. “Why are you asking someone from Columbia, Missouri to apologize for someone from France or Syria?”
Kahveci and Mefrakis said if more people walk up and talk with their Muslim peers rather than believing all that the media tell them, they would know that almost all Muslims are not violent people.
“Not all Muslims are terrorists, we are very peaceful people,” Mefrakis said. “And [Muslim students] think everybody needs to take a moment and actually talk to one of the Muslims at Rock Bridge and ask questions and learn what Islam is actually about rather than taking what the media says because a lot of the time [what they say] is false.”
By Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi