As France Mourns for Charlie Hebdo, Calls For Unity and Understanding
As France Mourns for Charlie Hebdo, Calls For Unity and Understanding
By Jon Queally /

'If this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists whose clear aim is to divide religions and societies.'

As people across France and around the world mourn the death of the twelve people killed at the offices of the satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday, and a massive manhunt continues for those thought responsible for the armed attack, a global conversation has emerged around the issues of religious sensibilities, freedom of expression, and violent extremism.

The most recent reports on Thursday suggest the two men still wanted for the crime—brothers identified by authorities as Cherif Kouachi, 32, and Said Kouachi, 34—may now be surrounded by French law enforcement officers in a town approximately 85 kilometers north-east of Paris.

According to reporting by French outlets Le Figaro and France 3, "the two may have barricaded themselves in a house in the town of Crépy-en-Valois, and are surrounded by special police units." The third individual now considered to have participated in the Wednesday's attack, 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad, surrendered himself to police on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the suspected role that Charlie Ebdo's irreverent treatment of Islamic figures, including the Prophet Mohammed, may have played in provoking the murder of some of France's most recognized cartoonists has quickly taken over the media landscape and the global conversation about religion, freedom of speech, and violence.

Evidence of anti-Islamic backlash was already evident in France as reports have begun to appear about attacks on mosques in several areas.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a statement condemning the Charlie Hebdo attack, which he characterized as terrorism, but also called for unity in the face of violence.

“Freedom of expression and opinion are a cornerstone for any democratic society," Al Hussein said, and those who try "to divide communities on grounds of religion, ethnicity or any other reason must not be allowed to succeed. The rule of law also requires that we seek to arrest and punish those directly responsible for carrying out, planning or acting as accomplices to specific crimes and do not attach blame to any wider group."

He continued, "If this attack is allowed to feed discrimination and prejudice, it will be playing straight into the hands of extremists whose clear aim is to divide religions and societies. With xenophobia and anti-migrant sentiments already on the rise in Europe, I am very concerned that this awful, calculated act will be exploited by extremists of all sorts."

The New York Times reports that the attack has come at a "dangerous moment" in Europe, citing the rise of Islamophobic rhetoric and a growing far-right movement which has launched virulent attacks against the continent's immigrant communities, with special ire shown towards those from north Africa and other predominantly Muslim nations in the Middle East. According to the paper:

The attack left some Muslims fearing a backlash. "Some people when they think terrorism, think Muslims," said Arnaud N’Goma, 26, as he took a cigarette break outside the bank where he works.

Samir Elatrassi, 27, concurred, saying that "Islamophobia is going to increase more and more."

"When some people see these kinds of terrorists, they conflate them with other Muslims," he said. "And it’s the extreme right that’s going to benefit from this."

The dynamic questions surrounding freedom of expression have also come to the fore, with an outpouring of grief for the cartoonists, journalists, and police officer slain coming from those who say they supported the right of those killed to be provocative even as they may have disagreed with the manner of their expression.

Khalid Albaih, a Sudanese cartoonist who lives in exile in Qatar, was among those speaking out. In a column for Al-Jazeera, he wrote, "I condemn the attacks on the cartoonists even though I don't agree with the publication’s editorial slant, which I have often found to be hurtful and racist. Nevertheless, I would continue to stand for their freedom of speech."

And the roots of the current crisis are deep, according to Albaih. He continued:

This situation is a perpetuation of what's happening in the Middle East right now - it's far more complex than the cartoon business. For us to help, to play a constructive role, we should desist from pointing the finger at others, and we must examine what motivates these young people to turn to violence and extremism.

Freedom of speech is a powerful weapon and one I have never fully had - but for those who do have it, I wish they would stop taking it for granted.

Instead, they ought to ask the right questions - the questions that need to be asked - rather than  accusatory  fuel the stereotypes that have originated in mainstream media.

Hoping to avoid false or counterproductive narratives, however, some made the point that the deadly assault on Charlie Hebdo's office should not be characterized as a so-called "clash of civilizations." As Homa Khaleeli, a journalist for the Guardian,  wrote after beginning to hear familiar rhetoric in the aftermath of the attack suggesting that all Muslims should go on the record to condemn such crimes.

While this demand may sound inoffensive, it implies that all Muslims, not just extremists, are implicated or secretly agree with all attacks undertaken by people in the name of religion anywhere in the world, unless we explicitly state otherwise.

It is easy to assume that terrorism works only if demands are met: if a magazine is closed down, if political changes are made. But terrorism also feeds itself by exploiting our society’s fears and fissures.

Outright Islamophobic attacks and the subtler but relentless questioning of the loyalty of Muslims create feelings of alienation that are all too easy for extremist organisations to use for their gain. In the rush to show terrorists they can’t win, solidarity and unity should not be trampled underfoot.

0.0 ·
What's Next
Trending Today
Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This'
Chris Hedges · 14,423 views today · Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 10,058 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings by Rob Gonsalves
Dovas · 7,739 views today · The beautiful and mind-bending illusions in Canadian artist Robert Gonsalves’ paintings have a fun way of twisting your perception and causing you to question what in his...
Forget Shorter Showers: Why Personal Change Does Not Equal Political Change (2015)
11 min · 5,950 views today · Would any sane person think dumpster diving would have stopped Hitler, or that composting would have ended slavery or brought about the eight-hour workday; or that chopping...
No Moral Superpower: Arundhati Roy, Edward Snowden, and the Crimes of Empire
Jake Johnson · 4,718 views today · When Arundhati Roy was preparing, in 2014, for a trip to Moscow to meet Edward Snowden, she was troubled by two things. One of them was the fact that the meeting was arranged...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 3,079 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 2,866 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Men Loving Men
Bianca Vivion · 2,430 views today · When my father was seven he and his best friend Phil cut their index fingers open and placed them together to create a “blood pact” that they would always be brothers. To this...
The Empire Vs. The People - Police Attack and Arrest Peaceful Protestors at the Dakota Access Pipeline
6 min · 2,324 views today · On October 22, just before dawn, hundreds of people, including many families, gathered and prepared to march toward the Dakota Access pipeline construction site near Standing...
These Incredible Stories Remind Us of Our Better Selves
36 min · 2,026 views today · #WhoWeAre is a campaign to share the stories of people whose actions show us compassion and to send a message of empathy, hope and optimism. These videos will automatically...
The Burden of the New Story
Adebayo Akomolafe · 1,950 views today · The 'new story' - that longed for milieu when all is right with the world and things are set straight - seems to be taking its sweet time coming. Why?
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,772 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
And After the Election, The Reaction
Ret Marut · 1,266 views today · Could there be any better illustration of the shortcomings of representative democracy than this year’s Presidential campaign? For months upon tiresome months, the whole world...
Writers Tom Hayden and Naomi Klein Talk About Journalism and Activism
27 min · 1,131 views today · Author, Activist and Former California State Senator Tom Hayden talks in depth with the author of No Logo and The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein, about the state of the fourth...
'The Climate of Fear Is Unacceptable' - Ken Loach on I, Daniel Blake
6 min · 955 views today · Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or-winning film I, Daniel Blake tells the story of a man who is denied disability benefit after a heart attack and who is then subsequently caught in a...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 757 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Three Massive Mergers - Millions for One Bank and a Disaster for Food, Water, and Climate
Wenonah Hauter · 700 views today · In addition to advising on all three mega-mergers, Credit Suisse is playing a big role behind the scenes of the Dakota Access pipeline.
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 636 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Ode to Lesvos
5 min · 509 views today · An inspiring story of a few remarkable heroes on the Island of Lesvos who helped almost half a million refugees in 2015 has been documented in a new short film called Ode to...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 461 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
As France Mourns for Charlie Hebdo, Calls For Unity and Understanding