Some friends are having a pretty vehement discussion over on Facebook about Charlie Hebdo, the Je Suis Charlie movement (if one can call it that), and the nature of privilege when it comes to old straight white males viciously lampooning minority populations.

Je suis CharlieNone in these discussions felt that violence was justified, but a couple have pointed to what might be called the bullying of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. It’s more nuanced than taht, to be sure, but they acknowledge the power differential between, for example, the French muslim population and the white majority. The host of this discussion included this in her analysis of the situation:

Imagine you have a neighbour, living next door. Imagine that every morning, you leave for work at the same time. Your neighbour greets you, compliments you on your outfit, says something nice about the weather and wishes you a good day. Assuming that these sentiments are genuine, and that your neighbour is not simultaneously inflicting wild all-night parties or boundary disputes on you, then I would assume that you are living at peace with your neighbour.

But what if, every morning, you and your neighbour leave for work, and instead of compliments, your neighbour always finds something about you to laugh at. Maybe you choose not to wear makeup, or your job requires you to wear jeans rather than a suit, or your uniform is specified by your employer. Every morning, your neighbour points and laughs, because he or she fundamentally does not understand your situation, finds it threatening, and tries to rid you of your perceived power and difference by poking fun.

Are you living at peace with this neighbour?

So in light of this discussion, I asked my French muslim colleague, a young woman from northwestern France, “What do you make of the Charlie Hebdo situation?” to which she asked me to be more specific. “What do you think of the Je Suis Charlie response to the massacre of the Charlie Hebdo journalists?” Her reply was essentially one of support for Charlie Hebdo – “Listen, they attack everyone. No group escapes them – Catholics, Jews, liberals, conservatives.”
It may make a difference that she’s university educated, middle class, and liberal. I’m not sure.

Mehdi Hasan, a journalist for the Al Jazeera and the Huffington Post, on the other hand, shares
As a Muslim, I’m Fed Up With the Hypocrisy of the Free Speech Fundamentalists, in which he takes on the politicians, journalists, and celebrities embracing Je Suis Charlie. Money quote:

Lampooning racism by reproducing brazenly racist imagery is a pretty dubious satirical tactic. Also, as the former Charlie Hebdo journalist Olivier Cyran argued in 2013, an “Islamophobic neurosis gradually took over” the magazine after 9/11, which then effectively endorsed attacks on “members of a minority religion with no influence in the corridors of power”.

Good point, that. This discussion will continue, but I had a few points to add.