In my high school years when most contemporaries were studying English, I studied French. So began my life as a Francophile and (several visits to the continent later) the love affair has never faltered. Friendships came easily with the French I met there, and those who later gravitated to me here on Australian soil. And it’s true there is a certain joie de vivre amongst them; though what I really love is their absolute commitment to not taking life too seriously.
The French and we Aussies share a lot in common. We have fought world wars together. Our colonies were built on the hardships and a mutual disdain of the Brits. And we don’t mind taking the mickey out of ourselves, or anyone else for that matter.
And over the past month two cities I adore – Sydney and Paris – have each been challenged in an unprecedented fashion. But we will both rise above this.
When I read that the murderers who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris spared the lives of two female employees, because they were women, of course I felt an overwhelming relief that at least some had survived. I can’t begin to imagine the nightmare they are still living, but at least their families can still hug them at night.
And when I heard that the gunmen counseled that these women must “convert to Islam, read the Qu’ran and wear a veil”… well, the fury kicked in.
I would like to quietly say, on behalf of my French and Australian sorority, in response to this demand: fuck you. We’re not the kind of women who do deals with terrorists.
France is a country that recognises the right of individuals to practice whatever religion they choose. How dare you or any of your cronies presume to dictate otherwise, terrorist or not?
Yes, I know that Islamic states deny women access to education, prevent them from basic rights like driving a vehicle and demand they cover up. But in this great country, as in France, we value the education and rights of women. We value the contribution they make to our society. And we give them their own voice, and the freedom to make their own choices in life.
Ironically on the eve of Christmas here in Sydney, the Katrina Dawson Foundation was established to preserve and honour the memory of Katrina whose life was cut short by another madman extremist here in my back yard. The Foundation will be focused on the education of women and I truly hope that this gives many women the opportunity to realize their full potential in life, to achieve financial independence, to be active in their community leadership. Ironically, the foundation will encourage what Islamic terrorists seek to prevent: the education and advancement of women.
You might like to join me in voicing your rights through making a donation to the Foundation, a very powerful reminder of the role that women play in peacemaking and of the power that lies in getting girls into schools and keeping them there as scholars.
This is exactly what the world needs and exactly what murderers like Al Quaeda and the Taliban demand we not do.
Well, to them I say: Je suis un écrivain. Je suis une femme. Je suis Charlie.
You may or may not agree with me. But the good news is you are, either way, free to do so.
PS sorry to those who were unable to log in to my New Year’s post My Jack Of Diamonds and my commitment for 2015, seems my blog was hacked 🙁 but all has been restored now. Thanks to those of you for the heads up on this, I really appreciate it!