This image and the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie trended worldwide on Twitter in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo Magazine
I take pride in being free to write what I want when I want, especially on this blog, and although I have strong views, I am pleased and energised when readers comment with equally strong views in disagreement. I believe it is a sign of intelligence and tolerance to be able to disagree vehemently with someone on any given subject no matter how important, and still have the decency to be polite and calm and charitable to them when need be.
There is a distinction between disagreement and discrimination; it's a fine line and a slippery slope, but I believe it is possible to tow it. I may disagree with Islam or homosexuality but like Volitaire said, I will defend to the death the rights of those within it to live it and be it. Absolutely so. I cannot hit them over the head - so to speak - with my Bible. They don't believe in it like I do, so why judge them on its laws?
So I shake my head at them, produce eloquent arguments against their way of life and maintain my belief that what they are is not God's best intention for them, but as human beings they are just as worthy of life and love and happiness as I am, and I will never stand in the way of their success. That would be crossing the line. So it brought tears to my eyes when the news broke that people had died because they decided to parody the Prophet Muhammad.
Satirists have been ridiculing Jesus for years, but I personally don't see the harm in it. Some of it is offensive yes, but I have the right to be offended and they have the right to have their opinions. I don't expect people that haven't engaged with Christian truths to understand it, so when they grapple with the beliefs I hold dear, part of me is kinda glad.
It's good when 'secular people' engage with my faith, turning it around in their hands, poking it, breaking it apart and spilling out its absurdities for humour. If it brings its values to diverse audiences, this is a good thing, and I'd rather people laugh at Christianity than ignore it completely.
Remember when people ridiculed former American President George W. Bush? Well now nobody does, because he is no longer important or powerful or relevant. So if Jesus shows up on the popular animated series South Park as a wacky TV show host in slippers and a gown, I laugh when it's funny and squirm when it's not, but I'm glad I'm watching a depiction of my saviour along with millions of other people.
Because unlike in the past, kids today don't go to Sunday school as a norm and religion is not part of their every day lives. So I appreciate shows like South Park or The Simpsons which pay homage to Christianity, no matter how crude, because I'm afraid that in 50 years time, show producers won't even know who Jesus is to mock him.
So defending a man that died centuries ago by killing men that draw cartoons about him is absolute lunacy.
But not only have the terrorists brought shame on their religion once again, but increasingly all faiths are being denigrated by people who believe themselves to be free from the constraints of organised religion.
They think we're all crazy.
I respect those that can live in the real world and acknowledge the existence of something greater than themselves, but many don't, and religious attacks like the one on Charlie Hebdo adds to the growing mainstream belief that all religions should be assigned to the waste basket of history and all 'God-botherers' should be dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world where an ancient book doesn't dictate their actions.
And no matter how much I try to draw a distinction between Christianity and Islam (like I did on my post titled Why I'm Glad I Am No Longer a Muslim), many still say to me "Nah, all religion is based on medieval mindsets not compatible with modern life. All religion is bad." That pisses me off, especially because I think that Christianity and Islam are as different as night and day.
However, such attacks make me think that the battle is sometimes between those with a faith and those without, rather than between Christians and Muslims. I was often cynical about shows of unity by Imams, Priests and Rabbis coming together to condemn or celebrate one religious news item or another, because I think that one of those three religions cannot join the others to speak of peace until they get their house in order.
But I believe it is more honourable to believe in something than to believe in nothing and be wafted here and there by any breeze that blows, without an anchor or an allegiance to something you're willing to die for.
So to that end, I have more in common with a Muslim than with a person of no faith.
And I feel increasingly sorry for the normal, everyday Muslims in the West; immigrants that moved to non-Muslim countries to work and live and become citizens; men and women who appreciate England and whose children have grown up here; and young Mohammeds and Safiyas who are as British as the Michaels and Kellys around them and who are just as appalled at the killings by those who share their religion.
I feel sorry for second and third generation Muslim immigrants who are somewhat confused about how to live in a world that is increasingly seeing them as the enemy, but they still continue to be devout in their faith, and even those who came from Muslim homes but wear the religion lightly and drink and smoke with the best of them.
I remember when I used to silently pray that the news about a murder or armed robbery didn't involve Black men, and breathing a sigh of relief when it didn't and wincing when it did. I'm sure many in the Black community are quietly relieved that the racism and condemnation we often faced from the mainstream has found a new target. I bet many Muslims, upon hearing about a shooting or other public violence, always pray it doesn't link back to their religion.
I'm also getting 'Outrage Fatigue;' I'm tired of criticising Islam and feeling religiously superior after yet another terrorist attack, because these attacks are gradually changing the world for the worse and in ways we won't begin to identify for years to come.
There are no winners when we are all suffering its effects.
I still believe people like the Charlie Hebdo gunmen Cherif and Said Kouachi are as Muslim as they say they are, and they actually believe that they were avenging Prophet Muhammad, but they also revealed themselves to be nothing but common criminals when they robbed a gas station at gunpoint and stole food and drinks hours after their 'holy crusade.' I mean, does Allah condone armed robbery, even if He seems to condone murder in his defence?
In a fight between Gods and mortals or Prophets and Cartoonists, I'd put my money on the Gods and Prophets winning, so they don't need defending. The supernatural can surely handle media mockery without losing its potency to those that care right?
So today I stand with every person who is standing in defence of free speech. It is imperative that those with a voice don't cower in fear. Charlie Hebdo magazine lampooned all institutions; from Christianity to Feminism and Politics, so why should Islam be omitted? All believers think their religion should be respected, so why should Islam be treated with kid gloves?
To all journalists and writers brave enough to say what they want because they truly believe it, people have died to safeguard the freedoms we enjoy today, and long may we continue to enjoy them. Be fearless with your words because the pen IS mightier than the sword.
And to moderate Muslims everywhere, although I continue to firmly disagree with your religion and believe that there is something inherently faulty with it because of the way it brings out the violence in men in ways no other religion does, I will fight to the death for your right to practice it in peace, for your right to live in safety with your neighbours, and for your right to pursue your happiness the same way I can.
That is what freedom is all about.