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 / commondreams.org

'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 ·
0
What's Next
Trending Today
Dakota Access Pipeline Permit Denied
Nika Knight · 15,119 views today · 'For the first time in Native American history, they heard our voices.'
All the News Is Fake!
3 min · 10,534 views today · Jonathan Pie finds nothing new in the idea of fake news.
How Romanticism Ruined Love
5 min · 9,035 views today · The set of ideas we can call Romanticism is responsible for making our relationships extremely difficult. We shouldn’t give up on love; we should just recognize that it’s more...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 6,393 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
After Historic Protests, Army Corps of Engineers Blocks Current Route of the Dakota Access Pipeline
3 min · 3,243 views today · The $4 billion dollar project could still be approved by President-elect Donald Trump who is heavily invested in the pipeline. Help support The Real News by making a donation...
The Numbers That Tell the Story of the Standing Rock Sioux's Victory
Tracy Loeffelholz Dunn · 2,787 views today · The Army Corps announced Sunday that the Dakota Access pipeline will be rerouted. Here are the numbers that show what lies ahead.
Post-Brexit Visions of The Possible: It's Time to Imagine a New European Community
Martin Winiecki · 2,484 views today · We live in the beginning phase of a global revolution which will turn societal conditions upside down. We cannot stop this transformation, but we can influence where it will...
Bikini Was Just the Beginning, Bombs Still Threaten the Islanders
John Pilger · 2,473 views today · I was recently in the Marshall Islands, which lie in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, north of Australia and south of Hawaii. Whenever I tell people where I have been, they...
This is an Anthem for Our Times
6 min · 2,248 views today · I think the world deserves to see the truth about #NoDAPL I tried my best to portray what I felt at camp, I felt LOVE. Love for all people, all living things, Mother Earth...
93 Documentaries to Expand Your Consciousness
Films For Action · 2,074 views today · There are over 800 documentaries now cataloged in our library of social change films. That's probably way too many for any mortal to ever watch in a lifetime, let alone a few...
Lifting the Veil:  Obama and the Failure of Capitalist Democracy (2011)
114 min · 2,039 views today · This film explores the historical role of the Democratic Party as the "graveyard of social movements", the massive influence of corporate finance in elections, the absurd...
United Natures: a United Nations of all Species (2013)
103 min · 1,894 views today · United Natures explores the Rights of Mother Earth, Environmental Philosophy, Wisdom, Spirituality and the potential for a Neo-indigenous future for humanity. Directed and...
The Venus Project by Jacque Fresco
4 min · 1,539 views today · For more information visit the official web site: thevenusproject.com Facebook: facebook.com/TheVenusProjectGlobal Music: Salomon Ligthelm - Close Horizonz Hanz Zimmer ...
10 Practical Tools for Building a Resilient Local Economy
Environmental Change Makers · 1,505 views today · The economy is changing. Dramatically. Coping with these changes means changing the way we do things. The path of the future involves root level, radical changes. Things we...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,239 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...
Austrialian Government Promotes Crap with Adani Carmichael Coal Mine
2 min · 1,231 views today · The Australian Government just released this advert about the proposed Carmichael Coal Mine and it's surprisingly honest and informative. 6 WAYS YOU CAN HELP STOP CCRAP: 1...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 941 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 846 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Sky Roosevelt-Morris: The Secret of Indigenous Resiliency
2 min · 701 views today · Activist Sky Roosevelt-Morris is of the Shawnee and White Mountain Apache Nations. She is a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado. In...
Breaking Down Bail: Debunking Common Bail Myths
3 min · 578 views today · Did you know over 1/2 a million Americans are being held in jail with no conviction? Not enough people know this – or that it’s all because of our money bail system. That’s why...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
As France Mourns for Charlie Hebdo, Calls For Unity and Understanding