rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Je suis Saïd et Chérif Kouachi?

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the slogan 'Je suis Charlie' and the sentiment behind it call on us to empathize with the victims who lost their lives. It is an extremely powerful statement. It says 'not only can I identify with the victims, not only do I stand by them, I am Charlie'. In other words, it could just as easily have been me.

Yet, some very thoughtful and discerning writers have begun to challenge the slogan's logic.

For example, Katherine Cross writes: "I am not Charlie. I couldn't be. Rather, I'm the sort of person who'd only ever get to be an ugly, rude caricature in their pages."

And the hashtag #JeSuisAhmed trended on twitter when thousands honoured the Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabet, who was gunned down trying to protect the Charlie Hebdo offices.

Similarly, Mohamed Lofti recently wrote, "Je ne suis pas que ça!," reminding us that imperialisms, colonialisms, zionisms and wahhabisms all have one thing in common: "hate deviding humans against each other."

Indeed, the real enemy, the real threat, is dehumanization, which as sociologists and historians have reminded us, is always central to the act of killing.

When Saïd and Chérif Kouachi walked into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, they clearly could not perceive the humanity of their victims; otherwise, they would have had to face the enormous anguish of killing a fellow human being. But as Sebastian Junger thoughtfully put it, "we're all guilty of dehumanizing the enemy," especially in times of war. And one dehumanizing act begets another in a vicious, seemingly never-ending cycle of violence.

Although many news reports have included reflection on how Muslims now face a backlash of islamophobic hatred, more attention is needed on the plight of young marginalized men of colour who are drawn to jihadist ideology.

Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, for example, grew up in an orphanage and seem to have been "radicalized" when they spent time in jail. What role did islamophobia and poverty play in their radicalization?

It is too easy to simply hate these young men. It is too easy to condemn their horrific actions as barbaric, as "unhuman" and not consider the circumstances that lead young men to commit violence. It is too easy to refuse to afford these men the moral consideration that we afford fellow human beings. To do so would be to dehumanize them as they have us.

And so, instead of boldly using the word "war," as our Prime Minister and other world leaders have recently done, the difficult and yet immensely important next step might be to focus on the real enemy -- dehumanization -- and refuse to give in to it, no matter how counterintuitive this might seem.

This means recognizing the fact that we are all, in the right (or wrong) circumstances, capable of dehumanization. We must do more than just recognize this fact; we must get intimate with it and get cozy with the jihadist, the Nazi, the imperialist, the evil inside us. And we must do this to humanize the "enemy," to recognize ourselves in the killers, but also because unless we acknowledge our potential malevolence, it may well creep up on us without notice.

For that reason, our vigilance should be directed at how our anger and revulsion over these and other such killings might be used to justify, or at least ignore, the perpetuation of new atrocities.

And so, the more daring, albeit uncomfortable, slogan might then be, "Je suis Saïd et Chérif Kouachi." Or at the very least, "I could be Saïd et Chérif Kouachi." Although this slogan stings and identification with such horrendous acts might not make us feel good, it is the only way to tackle head on the effects dehumanization. We can't afford to pretend that such horror happened only once, at a certain time and in a certain place, committed by people so totally unlike us that they don't seem like human beings.

A more productive line of thinking, one that might produce more revolutionary solutions, is the idea that Saïd et Chérif Kouachi, well, that could have been me. Grappling with this disturbing idea might help to prevent the creation of monsters deprived of noble human qualities, like empathy, in the future.



Corrie Scott is an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies, University of Ottawa. Her research focuses on the representation of race and masculinities in Quebec literature and she is the author of the recently published book, De Groulx à Laferrière : un parcours de la race dans la littérature québécoise, Éditions XYZ, 2014.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.