This essay appears with the permission of the Algerian website impact24.info, where it was published on January 14, 2015. It was translated from the French by Lorna Scott Fox.
To be or not to be Charlie? That is the question. It currently divides North and South, Algeria and France, the West and the Levant, the dead and the living, compassion and banality. The contours of the Algerian issue: To be, or not to be, Charlie? It depends on what you read, hear, discuss or see. To be Charlie springs from shock and pity: you don’t kill cartoonists in the name of God or the Prophet. Life is given by this God, and can only be taken away by him, according to the ancient tablets.
To be Charlie is to be on the side of life, liberty, humanity and reason. Thou shalt draw but thou shalt not kill. We have already lived through this back home, in ourselves, with ourselves. It is not about the French or anyone else; it’s about life, which has no nationality, only a right and a flame and a crown. Many Algerians experienced it that way. They are Charlie because Charlie is also life.
And what about “I am not Charlie”? It’s because of misunderstandings, hatred, bitterness, anger or lack of consciousness, or making too much of our differences. The first two reasons are ugly; let’s not go there. That leaves the third. Some Algerians, for instance, put forward facile arguments: we stood alone during our civil war. False: journalists all over the world stood shoulder to shoulder with Algerian journalists. There’s no reason to lie, or to confuse Mitterrand with international solidarity.
Others speak of Palestine. Yes, of course. Solidarity cannot be selective, whenever life is taken and there is pain left behind, no matter where. Strangely, though, the rejection of selective solidarity leads some people not to total solidarity but to a calculated disassociation. Paradox: I am not Charlie because Charlie is not Palestine and Palestine is not Charlie and so I will do nothing for either in the name of one. So here’s a question: Does Palestine ask us to disassociate from the rest of the world in the name of solidarity with Palestine? No: I’m sure of it.
“I am not Charlie” also invokes religion. Which one? Not Islam, but the religion of rage: inhuman. According to the ancient tablets, Islam is the religion of all. Does that include Charlie or not? Who decides? If I don’t represent Charlie, does that authorize me to present myself as the exclusive representative of Muhammad? No. Would Muhammad have wanted Charlie’s scalp or smile? Religion is a bond with God, not an obstacle to the rest of humanity. Killing is not creating. And drawing is not killing. If you want to share this religion with the rest of humanity, you can’t kill first and talk later, because it’s impossible to talk to a corpse. Charlie has the right to draw.