‘I am not Charlie’: Cracks in solidarity start to appear

The world outpouring of sympathy after the deadly Charlie Hebdo attack has touched many in France but some either detect a note of hypocrisy or feel squeamish about supporting a satirical weekly that antagonised many.

President François Hollande’s government insists freedom of expression must not be curtailed out of fear of further attacks, and authorities have got fully behind a “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) online campaign.

But scepticism has emerged on the one hand from surviving Charlie Hebdo workers who reject some support for them as insincere; from others who found the weekly plain offensive; and others who question the human rights records of the 40-plus world leaders who took part in yesterday’s unity march in Paris.

“There are so many big words being said about freedom of expression and democracy. But where was the support (for it) before? There wasn’t that much proof,” 26-year-old math student Nalo Magalhou said of some of the political and media reaction.

While far less popular than #JeSuisCharlie, the #IamNotCharlie hashtag has also appeared on Twitter.

To be sure, there is a fringe minority on the internet who have praised the attacks that killed 17 in three separate incidents over three days and culminated in the siege of a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris.

More significant are the people who say while they outright condemn the attacks, they still cannot bring themselves to support a newspaper that mocked religions.

“It would be too easy (to say) I am Charlie,” Belgian blogger Marcel Sel said.

Horrified by the attacks he unreservedly condemns, he said it would be “cowardly” to pretend he is “Charlie” while he had harshly criticised some of its cartoons on Islam in the past.

Zakaria Moumni, a 34-year-old Franco-Moroccan draped in the French flag at the Place de la Republique rally point for yesterday’s march has a very different reason to think there are cracks in the façade of unity.

“Some heads of state and government simply should not be there when they crack down on freedom of expression in their own country. It’s hypocritical,” said the former Thai box champion, who says he had been tortured in Morocco and received support from NGOs such as Human Rights Watch when jailed there.

Morocco has rejected accusations of torture and last March filed a legal complaint in France against them.

For veteran Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Holtrop, the problem is with some of the paper’s new “friends”.

Holtrop said he was happy if people worldwide marched to defend freedom of speech. But asked about support from Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, he said: “We vomit on all those people who are suddenly saying they are our friends.”

“We’ve got a lot of new friends — the Pope, Queen Elizabeth, Putin. I’ve got to laugh about that,” he said.

Holtrop said he is alive only because he does not like going to weekly staff meetings and was not in the Paris office when two gunman erupted and killed his colleagues and two policemen.

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