January 11, 2015
Paul A. Brown
Today marks the anniversary of the passing of my grandfather, Alfred Abu Samra.
In light of the vicious terrorist attacks against Paris, it seems apt to pay tribute to him. In his lifetime, my grandfather was the owner and editor of the newspaper Al Qalam Al Sarih — Arabic for "The Frank Pen".
Jeddo knew a thing or two about offending people - mostly people in power. True to the publication's name, he used his pen to attack oppression, injustice, ineptitude and hypocrisy without sentimentality or reverence for authority. No government or political body was safe - Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, Israeli, Turkish, and yes, even French.
It was only the latter, however, who went to the most extreme measures to silence him, putting him under house arrest and halting publication of Al Qalm Al Sarih, for his support of a Lebanon free from French rule.
As we mourn the atrocity that has befallen Paris, I think my grandfather represents two important and timely things. First, that the most powerful and valuable expression of speech, the kind worth fighting for, is the kind that speaks truth to power, that directly indicts the forces which seek to oppress and subjugate the masses for the benefit of the few. Second, that the attack on Charlie Hebdo is not symptomatic of a clash of civilizations; the west does not hold a monopoly over the veneration of free speech.
I don't know much about the content of Charlie Hebdo, but if it is to stand as the symbol of free speech for our times, I hope to honor those who were needlessly murdered with the kind of expression that I believe my jeddo would stand for.
Not with pointless and vapid caricatures but with meaningful disapprobations against all who stand for violence, hate and oppression, be it radical religionists or military occupiers. #JeSuisAlfred
Paul A. Brown