I normally like to deliver my pieces in a semi-jocular manner, but this is one time where I have to be completely serious. I read about tragedies in the news every day, but this was particularly hard hitting for me. It was the first time I genuinely felt a sense of sorrow.
Let me begin by saying this: the shooting at Charlie Hebdo's offices was an act of barbarism and sheer bigotry. Religion is never an acceptable excuse for violence and extremism should never be tolerated in society.
As an aspiring satirist and a not-so-politically-correct person myself, it never really occurred to me that a bit of good-humoured fun would receive such a horrific response. Though I do admit that the French satirical magazine does push the boundaries of political correctness at times, I absolutely do not believe that the attack was even remotely justified.
If you believe that Charlie Hebdo's content is vile and blasphemous, you have every right to speak up and protest against it. You have the right to make fun of Charlie Hebdo, too. As George Orwell said: "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed."
Satire is very much a part of journalism and everyone should be able to use it regardless of their position. It's a form of expression, a way for us to make current affairs interesting and wade through times of tragedy. Newspapers don't get shut simply because someone doesn't like what is being said, so why should satire be stopped just because someone finds it offensive? Everyone who is angered by Charlie Hebdo's content still has the right to fight against it with words and satire, but not violence.
Attacks like these often cause people to associate Islam with extremism. They are, very clearly, two separate things. Although they claim to be "protecting their religion from defamation", these extremists are just lone, insecure cowards who use religion as a pretence to carry out unjustifiable attacks. By no means do they reflect the feelings of 99.9 per cent of Muslims.
I have the utmost respect for religion and the people who practise it, but I firmly believe that anything and everything can be made fun of -even religion. Yes, satire can be completely disrespectful and downright offensive at times, but I firmly believe that everything has to be made fun of equally - I'm serious about this.
Minds coupled with pens have always been the most powerful weapons. A gun may be able to kill, but a good mind and a pen can help topple unjust governments, uncover terrible crimes, or even incite revolutions. The prats who attacked Charlie Hebdo may have been able to silence them temporarily, but the murders have united writers and artists across the world to stand up against blatant attacks on our freedom of expression.