It’s now a little over four months since I placed the little sign in the back of my car “Je Suis Charlie”.
I like millions around the world was outraged at the attack at Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris which left 11 dead and 11 more injured. The morning of January 7th 2015 in Paris will be remembered because of the actions of two brothers – Saïd and Chérif Kouachi. Other attacks in France left a further 5 more dead and another 11 injured, before the whole bloody episode came to a close January 9th when they were shot dead exiting a signage company in Dammartin-en-Goële.
Worldwide over the next 48 hours saw vigils held in support of those killed and condemning the acts of terrorism with “Je suis Charlie” signs to show their solidarity
Two days later around 2 million people in Paris along with 40 World leaders took part in a rally, and millions more in other parts of France and around the world followed suit.
The condemnation of the attack was initially almost universal in the Western world.
Not just for the act itself, but the fact it had attacked journalists and free speech was in essence was what most people had the reaction to. Free speech upto then was what most Westerners took as granted.
For those of us who have travelled quite a bit, we know that in many countries saying the wrong thing in the wrong place can get you arrested or worse dead. But this wasn’t some two-bit dictatorship country in the back of beyond, this happened in the middle of Paris.
Reporters Without Borders however were quick to criticise the presence of leaders from Egypt, Russia, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates, saying, “On what grounds are representatives of regimes that are predators of press freedom coming to Paris to pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo, a publication that has always defended the most radical concept of freedom of expression?”
Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, the leading Sunni institution of the Muslim world condemned the attack as did many other Muslim organizations. Even the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the Hamas government of the Gaza Strip stated that “differences of opinion and thought cannot justify murder”.
Saudi-Australian Islamic preacher Junaid Thorne said: “If you want to enjoy ‘freedom of speech’ with no limits, expect others to exercise ‘freedom of action’
In China the state-run newspaper Global Times said the attack was “payback” for what it characterised as Western colonialism.
If we generalise the two camps here we see, those supporting the attack tend to follow along the lines that freedom of expression is perceived as being “incompatible with their faith” and the attack was a “moral lesson for the world to respect any kind of religion, especially the religion of Islam”.
Those condemning the attack – The leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah declared that “takfiri terrorist groups” had insulted Islam more than “even those who have attacked the Prophet” this seems to be a common view from many Muslim groups who condemn the attack such as the Al-Azhar University, which released a statement denouncing the attack, stating that violence was never appropriate regardless of “offence committed against sacred Muslim sentiments”.
Last week saw fresh attacks, the most bloody of which was ended with the death of 38 at the beach resort of Sousse in Tunisia.