Je suis Ayeesha. Three years old.
Je suis Maezol. Eight years old.
Je suis each of dozens of innocent children killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. For there is no self-censorship such as curtailing all that you do, and learning to wish for dark clouds rather than clear skies, simply to survive.
Je suis an unnamed Nigerian girl, misrepresented in this week’s press as a ‘suicide bomber’, though there is no evidence that she was suicidal and she was never a bomber, but another innocent child among the others murdered.
Je suis Mary, Esther, Blessing, Glory, Fatima, Awa, Rahila, Rejoice, Hauwa and Zara, who were also kidnapped by extremist men and may never again experience freedom from daily fear, injustice and violence.
Je suis the jailed Bradley Manning who exposed how unarmed Iraqi civilians were massacred by US troops from their helicopter, without any trial by jury or right of appeal, for nothing close to satire or blasphemy. Je suis Raif Badawi who is sentenced to flogging and imprisonment in Saudi Arabia for criticizing Wahabbi rule.
Why choose Charlie but not Ayeesha? Why see an attack on us all in religious-based violence without also seeing it in state violence, class violence and corporate violence? This is a good moment to denounce all violence that forces silencing of dissent and critique, and acceptance of injustice and inequality.
Je suis Charlie to evoke a global defense of truth, justice and freedom for all, and to mobilize a politics that equally abhors the violation of some individuals in some places as much as it does in others. Je suis Charlie to refuse distinctions regarding torture, terrorism and armed violence, and to challenge dogmatism regardless of who imposes their worldview with guns and war.
It’s absolutely true that self-righteous religiosity, whether Islamic or Christian, powerfully continues to deny equality to some because of their gender or sexuality, resist women’s complete autonomy, and perpetuate the violence of illegal and unsafe abortions which kill tens of thousands of women worldwide. It is also true that nationalism combined with state violence decides whose bodies matter, which countries we emotively connect to, and whose lives can be ignored by citizens, media and states.
Forty-seven nations’ politicians gather in solidarity in Paris while state terrorism against other innocents fails to make us sufficiently act against the intolerance behind such crimes. Indeed, one cannot blame cartoonists, French racism, Western colonialism and war, or economic deprivation for provoking a ‘Muslim’, Algerian or masculine response. An egotistical claim to sovereignty over others, meaning the assumed right to repress and kill, is at work here and it is as illegitimate when claimed by individuals or nations. This is therefore also a moment to remember that contemporary religious fundamentalism, state militarism and extremist male violence are entangled in ways that it is ahistorical to deny.
The hijacking of religious tolerance, individual freedom, women’s rights, collective peace and global as well as local forms of economic equality connects Charlie Hebdo with Nabila Rehman who was picking ochros in her garden when drone missiles killed her grandmother, injuring her and seven other children.
Will we identify with freedom for all or sacrifice fairness for tribalism? This, to quote Maajid Nawaz, “is the difference between choosing principles and choosing sides”. An attack on anyone’s human rights is an attack on all we cherish, and all that connects our humanity across every national border.
Je suis Mahmoud, a Palestinian teen who rushed to help Israelis attacked in a West bank supermarket.
Je suis Charlie. Je suis Ayeesha. No to all terror. Not in my name.