Like the rest of the watching world, I remain appalled by what happened on January 7 at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. Yet, I haven’t embraced the phrase “Je suis Charlie.”

Truth is, I can’t say I know exactly what it means. Of course, I can translate those words into English—easy enough, even if I hadn’t taken French in high school. But what does it mean? I’ve never held an issue of Charlie Hebdo in my hands, and I don’t recall even hearing of the publication until the vicious attack a little over a week ago.

Am I, like so many of us in the West, a staunch believer in free speech?

Did the murders of cartoonists, editors, columnists, police officers, and others horrify me?

Was I inspired when the grieving city of Paris marched together and proclaimed that extremists would not hold it hostage with fear?

Yes, yes, yes on all counts. But, "am I Charlie"?

For the record, I wasn’t comfortable using the #iammalala hashtag either, though it had a much clearer meaning—an indicator of of support for education as a human right, as Malala stood up for girls in places where they have traditionally been denied schooling.

As inspiring as I find Ms. Yousafzai, the young Pakistani Nobel prize winner and human rights advocate, I don’t feel comfortable saying I’m “her,” despite being in awe of her intelligence and bravery. I share her conviction that all of the world’s children are entitled to education, but I’m wary of assuming this trending hashtag. (I have given her book, also titled I Am Malala, as a gift multiple times).

With #jesuischarlie, more than 5 million tweets have included the phrase—making ...

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