I was born in Iran, raised to become a good muslim. My last name was Sheikholeslami, which translates to ‘The Wise Man of Islam’. I was wise enough to know this wasn’t me. I’ve dropped my name, my religion and my country.
One of the reasons I emigrated to the UK was the fact that I aspired to be surrounded by values such as freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of press.
When I came across Have I Got News for You in Britain, I imagined an Iran with its own version of HIGNFY would be a democratic Iran, a free Iran. The truth is people who cannot laugh at themselves are dangerous people. The world of political Islam is, sadly, one devoid of humour and hung up on self-righteousness.
The assault against satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris is an attack on all of those values that I sought to have, and all in the name of political Islam.
Let me say it loud and clear: the freedom of press is non-negotiable, as is the freedom of expression. Be whoever you want to be, believe in whatever you want, express whatever views you please. But do not ask our pens to be strangled, do not ask us to self censor. The right to freedom of expression to writers and cartoonists and journalists and artists is, at the very least, as sacred as whatever fairytale religious people believe in.
I draw the line when one draws a gun against a drawing. I have no problem with any opinion being expressed. But a gun is not an opinion, violence is not the answer and fundamentalism is illogical idiocy, pure and simple.
Maybe it is time for liberal thinkers in Europe to come together and verbalise this. Maybe it is time for leaders to rethink their tongue-in-cheek policies and stop allowing favours for religious schools and for hate preachers. Enough is enough.
When I came up with the idea of a column titled The Wise Man of Islam I wanted to drop a few bombs of my own. I wanted to risk being called mad for trying to find the lighter side of Islam, which, as a matter of fact, does exist.
Today, however, is no time to entertain the thought of a humorous Islamic world. Not today.
Long live freedom of press, expression and thought. No to extremism, no to violence, no to fundamentalism.
And it is with immense pride and privilege that I say: Je suis Charlie.