I've been divided in myself on this question ever since the first
hours of "je suis Charlie".
On the one hand, as a writer and as a child (albeit sometimes a
reluctant child) of the West, I have been Charlie. I do not cringe at
ridiculing the sacred, even most things my own faith holds sacred,
though not, I hope, in a gratuitous fashion. I do not accept the
argument that we must hold our pens simply because they risk giving
offence. That would simply be cowardice. There is a kernel of
uncomfortable truth in the most absurd ridicule, and that truth is
often worth the greatest sacrifice.
On the other hand, as a Christian, I find some of the attacks of
Charlie Hebdo disturbing and unnecessary. For instance, I do not think
there is truth in the idea that Mohammad was a paedophile sufficient
enough to portray him as such in an offensive and provocative way.
Charlie Hebdo is waging a war. I do not object to the war being
fought. But I object sometimes to the battle lines being drawn, and to
the method of fighting.
There are rules in journalism as there are rules in war; and in an age
of clashing ideologies on what should and should not be written or
drawn, there may be direct parallels between the rules of war and the
rules of journalism. In the fighting of a war, the Church tells us, we
must apply a sense of proportionality. Grave insults and provocative
behaviour may be appropriate to journalism just as killing is
appropriate to war, despite the fact that all these things are
objectively wrong. But there is a line (somewhere) that must be drawn.
Most of us consider the use of nuclear weapons against a civilian
population to be wrong, not because it kills (per se) but because it
kills the innocent, en masse. Similarly, an offensive in words which
offends not only militant or fundamentalist Islam, but Islam in
general - including Muslims who are on our side of this ideological
war - and indeed, pious Christians, must be deemed disproportionate.