Students discuss effects of Charlie Hebdo shooting

The School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution hosts safe space discussions as part of the Dialogue and Difference project so that the Mason community can talk about contentious current events and issues.

Each semester, different student interns plan the topic and structure of the events. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, senior Conflict Analysis and Resolution major Dylan Bates hosted the semester’s first discussion called “The Power of Words and Images.”

The terrorist attacks against the French satirical magazine left 12 people dead and sparked an international debate on how freedom of speech, the press and tolerance of religion can both be supported in an increasingly violent world. This event on Feb. 19 encouraged the Mason community to join in on that debate.

The audience analyzed a mock Charlie Hebdo cover (above) in two small groups. The French translations for the white text are “The Koran is shit” and “Charlie Hebdo is shit.” The translation of the black text in the yellow boxes is “It doesn’t stop bullets.”

Four of the participating students said they practice Islam.

“They all said ‘this pisses me off, I hate this image and it’s offensive.’ But they would say something like that and say, ‘but I understand the freedom of speech part of it,’ Bates said.

Junior and SCAR major Eman Altimimi was not sure if she should share with her group that she’s Muslim. She did not want her beliefs to make other students feel like they had to be dishonest with their opinions. The group said that they were honest and that it benefited the discussion to have a Muslim person’s perspective on the issue.

This group agreed that a clearer distinction needs to be made between Islamic radicals and the rest of the Muslim community, but there was not a consensus on how this can be done or whose responsibility it is.

According to Bates, people’s reactions to the cartoon were blunted because of the environment.

“When you’re in an environment like this where you’re designed to understand different view points and very passively very understandably relate,” Bates said. “I think that’s going to be the biggest issue with the topic. How do you get people’s genuine reactions and how do you get them to show that?”

Five other images were also viewed and hashed out (above). In the order shown: statute of the Virgin Mary in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in Queens, New York, German graffiti in the West Bank, a portrait of Che Guevara, a before-and-after of destruction in Ukraine and a woman showing solidarity for Eric Garner, who died from a police chokehold.

The context of the images, such as the location and subject matter, were explained to the audience after their initial reactions. This highlighted how context can change someone’s idea of an image.

The next event on March 17 will be about emotion-filled conflicts.

“It’s going to take a look at conflicts, like Cyprus [Greece], Israel and Palestine, the Northern Ireland conflict [and] how presidential elections have run off of emotion. It’s going to be a mix of interpersonal and international,” Bates said.

Photo slideshow credit: Dylan Bates

  • Matt Warner

    “The terrorist attacks against the French satirical magazine left 12 people dead and sparked an international debate on how freedom of speech, the press and tolerance of religion can both be supported in an increasingly violent world.”

    Is this paragraph stating that freedom of speech and religious tolerance can run counter to one another?

    I don’t think that makes sense because freedom of speech, press, and religious tolerance are all fundamentally the same principle: the idea anyone should not be physically harmed for their ideas.

    There is nothing a cartoonist can say, short of a death threat, that would infringe upon another individual’s ability to practice their religion.

    Please, let’s assign moral responsibility where it belongs and stop entertaining the idea that a cartoonist warranted his own death for insulting a Prophet.

  • Hi Mr. Warner, thanks for reading Fourth Estate and this article! I agree that the magazine didn’t warrant their own attack. What I meant by that paragraph is that this attack brought forth a debate between these fundamental freedoms, if these two are sometimes in tension with each other or not. For example, some people view the magazine’s cartoons as offensive or disrespectful to Islamic faith and shouldn’t be published, while others view it as the new outlet’s right to publish these images, especially as terrorism is a growing global concern. Also some people even have a mixture of both sides, which I think this article reflected that.

    • Matt Warner

      I respect the interest to cover more perspectives. Yet, I’m highly skeptical of the idea that something should not be published simply if it is not tasteful and that paragraph may be giving that perspective false vindication.

  • Arafat

    Raquel, when will you start to connect the dots?


    A beheading in Woolwich, a suicide bomb in Beijing, a blown-up marathon in
    Boston, a shooting in the head of a young Pakistani girl seeking education, a
    destroyed shopping mall in Nairobi – and so it continues, in the name of Islam,
    from south London to Timbuktu. It is time to take stock, especially on the
    left, since these things are part of the world’s daily round.

    Leave aside the parrot-cry of “Islamophobia” for a moment. I will return to it.
    Leave aside, too, the pretences that it is all beyond comprehension.
    “Progressives” might ask instead: what do Kabul, Karachi, Kashmir, Kunming and
    a Kansas airport have in common? Is it that they all begin with “K”? Yes. But
    all of them have been sites of recent Islamist or, in the case of Kansas, of
    wannabe-Islamist, attacks; at Wichita Airport planned by a Muslim convert ready
    to blow himself up, and others, “in support of al-Qaeda in the Arabian
    Peninsula”. “We cannot stop lone wolves,” a British counterterrorism expert
    told us after Woolwich. Are they “lone”? Of course not.

    A gas facility in southern Algeria, a hospital in Yemen, an Egyptian police
    convoy in the Sinai – it’s complex all right – a New Year’s party in the
    southern Philippines, a railway station in the Caucasus, a bus terminal in
    Nigeria’s capital, and on and on, have all been hit by jihadis, with hostages
    taken, suicide belts detonated, cars and trucks exploded, and bodies blown to
    bits. And Flight MH370? Perhaps. In other places – in Red Square and Times
    Square, in Jakarta and New Delhi, in Amman and who-knows-where in Britain –
    attacks have been thwarted. But in 2013 some 18 countries got it in the
    neck (so to speak) from Islam’s holy warriors….

    • Hi Arafat, thanks for reading Fourth Estate and this article! I’m not sure I understand your point. This article is not denying the growing threat of Islamic extremism. This discussion talked less about policy on how to deal with terrorism, rather the event was about public perceptions of Islam and the role of freedom of speech. Thanks for the feedback. I don’t write for myself, I write for the Mason community so I always appreciate to hear from our readers.