Charlie Hebdo is a magazine that has paid a price for its satire. Are we heading for a world that dare not laugh because it could offend someone— anyone?

How good is a god that can’t be laughed at? Wednesday’s shooting in a magazine office at Paris that resulted in the death of twelve (as we go to press) journalists is a certain sign that lack of humour is fatal to civilization.Elsewhere in this paper you will read about how earlier incidents of laughter — actually the absence of it– killed people. This is not to defend crass jokes made at the expense of each other’s gods. Or each other. But surely a harmless cartoon where the Prophet says “a hundred lashes if you don’t die laughing,” or another one at the expense of the ISIS leader Al Baghdadi, or an announcement that a certain prophet has guest-edited an issue of Charlie Hebdo, do not merit death?The right to offend is integral to the creative arts. The idea of Rabelaisian humour is central to the idea of democracy and free speech of the West, and increasingly in the rest of the world. Jokes, like mismatching socks, are subversive. And nothing is more crucial for sanity in a world rabidly turning politically correct to the point of paranoia. Hindu fanatics do not take kindly to laughter at the expense of their gods, though Krishna is one of the most amusing practioners of irony and humour. That goes for hardcore Christians, Muslims, and Sikhs. The fact is god– if he exists– can’t care less, he is likely to be too busy with all the troubles he clearly has unleashed all over. The observance of religious righteousness goes hand in hand with other trends in political correctness. Animal lovers don’t like their pets to be made fun of. Women’s rights activists are only too quick to read sexism in an offhand remark. Perhaps like no other time in history each of us demands the other be “correct” — or else. And equally perhaps at no other time in history has humour been under siege. Slowly, but steadily, caste, colour, age, gender, religion– the big issues of the day in fact– are all being erased, like a smile from an unsuspecting face. This is the age of correctness, and it is dry as dust.If a cartoonist can’t draw, a comedian can’t crack jokes, a writer can’t offend, an artist can’t mimic, dogmas will grow. This does not make people serious. It actually makes them stupid. And there is nothing as dangerous as stupidity. Charlie Hebdo is a satirical magazine. Its job is to make people laugh and think. The Islamist terrorists who shot and killed the chief editor and the cartoonists among other journalists were doing their work. That involves the right to offend, be it against god or the powers that be. For a few, the gunmen may be heroes; for this paper, they are deadly serious duds in hoods. Terrorism is intolerence taken to its extreme. They live for a world proof to the sound of laughter. Samuel Huntington has talked about clash of civilizations. That is a very big concept. The simple point is, can you take a joke? The answer is No. And the test is Checkpoint Charlie.

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Checkpoint Charlie