Je Suis Charlie


On Wednesday, December 7th, 2014, two gunmen, armed with assault rifles, entered the Charlie Hebdo building in Paris and began a killing spree that resulted in the deaths of 14 people. After going into the building and killing a visitor and a security guard, the shooters entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine, and killed eight journalists. The shooters then fled the offices, killing two police officers during their escape. Paris was plunged into a state of terror for two days while law enforcement searched for the suspects. On December 9th, police cornered the brothers in the building of a printing firm and killed them during a firefight. The two shooters, brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, had a history of Islamic militant activities and ties to terrorist groups. They attacked the newspaper in retaliation for a cartoon depicting the prophet Muhammad in what they felt was an insulting way.

After this tragic attack, the people of Paris rallied behind the phrase “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) to remember and support the victims and communities so greatly affected by the attack. While many Parisians responded to the shootings in a solely supportive way, there were some who felt more anger than others. There is a large risk that these attacks will further already present anti-Islamic sentiment in Europe. The large majority of Muslims who preach nothing violent whatsoever are at a higher risk now than ever of becoming victims of this anti-Muslim sentiment. Unfortunately, there are a large number of people who cannot distinguish between the very large group of peaceful Muslims and the very small group of Muslim extremists. It is incredibly important for people to be careful not to see the actions of two isolated extremists as representations of the views of the Muslim community as a whole.

Another thing this attack has led to is a call for the changing of press laws by some French lawmakers. A day after the attack, the French government issued a decree that makes it much easier for the government to ban websites, especially those supporting or condoning terrorism. This law was made with good intentions, and there are certainly websites out there that should be banned. However, there is a fine balance between keeping order and limiting rights. It can be very dangerous to make free press too easily limited, for once one type of press is banned, there is no telling what may follow. Speech that offends is speech nonetheless, and no matter how insulting it is, it should never be limited except when it presents an obvious and imminent danger. What happened in Paris was horrible, and my heart goes out to the victims and their families. France must stay strong and remember that it cannot allow the violent actions of terrorists to undermine the core ideals and values of a free democracy and freedom of speech. Je suis Charlie.