By Emily Kochanek – News Editor
Tessa La Roux, Director of the Donahue Institute for Values and Public Life and Professor of Sociology, held a panel discussion this month about the social and political ramifications concerning the January 7 bombing of the satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, located in Paris. The panel included history professors Joe Aieta and Denny Frey, communication professor Dana Janbek, and Director of the Center for Spiritual Life Reverend Tom Sullivan.
Aieta began the discussion, citing a 1995 potential bombing and later shootout between Algerian-born Khaled Kelkal and French police. As Kelkal faced prejudice growing up in France, “He became more and more alienated,” said Aieta. “The French demand total assimilation,” Aieta continued, as Kelkal was forced to eat pork and blamed for stolen items in school. Aieta asked, “Why tell you this story?… Reconstructing the past.”
Setting the historical tone roused Janbek to explore the misconceptions that Westerners have about Muslims and how free-speech factors into news coverage. Janbek believes the issue that “The simplistic narrative is those who are for freedom of speech and those are against freedom of speech,” does not focus on outlying factors like prejudice against Muslims in the media. While the news spends a disproportionate time on terrorism, Janbek said, “We have a tendency to link terror organizations to ordinary Muslim people.”
Frey echoed Janbek’s comments. “The 24/7 media aftermath that attached white Europeans to dark Arabs […] was lambasted by the right wing media,” said Frey. “Do white, Western European lives count more than non-white, non-Western ones?”
To end the discussion, Reverend Sullivan mentioned the issue of ethics. “[O]ur understanding of free speech is limited,” he said. “Are we going to do things just because we can do them?” he asked. Sullivan encouraged the audience to respect the values of others even if they do not align personally.