An attack on freedom of speech

REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

A demonstrator holds up a sign reading “I am Charlie” in the aftermath of the attack on the magazine’s staff.

In the late morning of Jan. 7, the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” was attacked by Islamic extremists. Masked gunmen identified as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi barged through the doors and killed 12 people, including the magazine’s top editor.

The assault triggered a worldwide response and violent demonstrations concerning the magazine’s right to publish without censorship.

Video recordings of the attack show the Islamic extremists shouting “Allahu Akbar” (Arabic for “God is great”) before unloading their rifles.

Two days after the Charlie Hebdo attack, four Jewish shoppers were found dead inside a kosher super market in east Paris, while 15 other hostages were rescued by police. The captor, identified as Amedy Coulibaly, claimed that he was in alliance with the Kouachi brothers.

An editorial cartoon depicts the increased readership of the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

An editorial cartoon depicts the increased readership of the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

Around the same time of the kosher supermarket raid, the Kouachi brothers were killed in a shootout with police, leaving several people wounded, including two police officers.

Coulibaly stated that he is part of the Islamic State before being killed by police who stormed the kosher grocery store. Coulibaly’s girlfriend and accomplice, Hayat Boumeddiene, has not been captured and is believed to have gone back to Syria, according to French officials.

All four radicals were trained with assault weapons in Syria before returning to France, said French authorities.

Depicting images of the Prophet Muhammad is considered blasphemy in the Muslim religion. According to the Quran, a key religious Islamic text, it is considered “unjust” by Allah (Muslim god) to try to create this kind of divine image.

Although most Muslims do not condone violence, in many Arab countries someone found guilty of blasphemy could receive capital punishment. In Pakistan, with a population of roughly 200 million Muslims, any derogatory remarks spoken or written against Muhammad or Islam could result in death.

The previous general of Pakistan, Army Ahmad Chaudhry, believes that Muslims should forcefully reject blasphemy laws, but Western cultures need to be more sensitive regarding religion.

“Knowingly publishing speech that more than 1.3 billion Muslims will find offensive is nothing but childishness and immaturity,” said Chaudhry.

WCC political science professor Roy Fujimoto added, “There’s something to be said about practicality and common sense. These (terrorists) are people who go out of their way to limit your freedom of expression.”

The magazine has become infamous for publishing images of the Prophet Muhammad, which goes against the Islamic religion.

Charlie Hebdo was firebombed in November 2011 after the French magazine announced its publication of a satirical imitation of the Prophet with the words “Charia Hebdo.” The magazine’s headquarters were being guarded by armed security.

The release of the latest Charlie Hebdo cover that depicts a cartoon of the Islamic prophet Muhammad shedding a tear and the words “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) and “Tout est pardonne” (“All is forgiven”) sparked controversy throughout the Muslim community.

“When you start thinking that somebody does something to you that’s horrible or bad and you start self-regulating — putting limits on what you say in public— I think that diminishes the role and responsibility the media has in free and open society,” said Fujimoto.

In an interview with “Meet the Press,” Gerard Biard, editor of Charlie Hebdo, defended the magazine’s publication, saying that they were upholding the right to freedom of speech.

French magazine Le Monde dedicated a cover and editorial page to Charlie Hebdo in a January edition, comparing the country’s utter shock to that of America’s 9/11 tragedy. France has ramped up security and deployed thousands of military personnel in light of the attacks.

In a video released Jan. 14, top commander for al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Nasr al-Ansi, claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks, saying they were “in vengeance for the Prophet.” Al-Ansi stated that the attacks were planned several years ago and threatened more attacks in the near future.

The 11-minute video clip shows al-Ansi stating that the Yemen al-Qaeda branch, or AQAP, had orchestrated and financed the operation, which U.S. officials have not yet confirmed. U.S. authorities have verified the video is authentic and did come from al-Qaeda.

According to French officials, weapons were purchased through Europe’s black market through a Belgium arms dealer. Among the weapons used in the assault were a rocket-propelled grenade and Soviet-style machine guns. The arms dealer has turned himself into police, and documents were found in his Paris apartment linking him to Coulibaly.

France in particular has the largest Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe and the French have a history of comical satire. Charlie Hebdo’s controversial humor has been compared to that of the American TV show “South Park.”

The European Union wants to work with Muslim countries to strengthen alliance with Arab nations. Head of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini believes that an increase in communication with Arab nations is a key element in preventing future terrorist attacks.

Mogherini was among the 3.7 million people in France who attended an anti-terror march, held to honor those killed in the Paris terror attacks and to encourage that country’s freedom of expression. Among others who attended were 40 world leaders.

Some French authorities have contemplated the idea of instituting a French version of The USA Patriot Act, while others believe this would invade the lives of French-Muslim citizens. Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is not in favor of the idea and wrote in a French newspaper that illegal detention is how the U.S. lost its “moral compass.”

by Pua Guard, Ka ‘Ohana Editor in Chief