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Commemorating the attacks in France

As part of featuring January’s most relevant events, it is impossible to ignore the murders of 17 people in France earlier this month. The attacks have mobilized citizens and institutions worldwide, polarising public opinion, stirring editors, media and even academics. Reactions included a widespread commemoration of the victims calling for freedom of expression and warning against dangerous generalisations, as well as against the political consequences that such an event can have in fostering xenophobia and islamophobia. 

Believing that it is possible to mourn the human loss and to express solidarity with the country that has suffered such a loss without embracing any of the xenophobic and islamophobic attitudes, ACA joins the voices sharing deep grief for the Charlie Hebdo satirists, police officers and customers of the supermarket, as well as for the whole of France. In the same way, the dramatic events offer a chance to restate the support for the value of freedom, as well as with those of fraternity and equality - that nurtured the French Revolution in 1789. The same principles have made possible the enormous progress in Europe and worldwide towards international mobility, science, innovation and the cultivation of critical thought in universities and research institutes. 

While it is understood that not everybody can agree on the same values, faiths, ideas, we believe that the diversity of thought, together with exchange and dialogue, is a source of enrichment for peoples and cultures. Therefore - without necessarily endorsing the opinions published by the Charlie Hebdo magazine - we share our feeling of sympathy with all of those peacefully expressing their critical thought. At the same time, we find it important to warn against the simplistic interpretations that could lead to a reductionist narrative contrasting the ‘western’ values against the rest, and in particular against the Muslim population – that should not be simplistically confused with terrorist groups.  It is important to reject any kind of fundamentalism – both the Islamic and the anti-Islamic one - and not to present them as a mutual zero-sum game.

What happened unluckily cannot be confined to some bloody episodes of the past, but will have consequences on our lives in the future. Primarily, in the security measures adopted as an answer to terrorism. While it is welcome to be attentive in guaranteeing citizens as safe an environment as possible, we hope that our institutions will not at the same time limit the freedoms and the movement of individuals, otherwise it would mean violating the same liberties that we claim to protect.