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The Charlie Hebdo Massacre: Context and Responses

Outpouring of support for slain journalists' right to free speech after terrorist attack on French satirical magazine.

By David Beers 7 Jan 2015 | TheTyee.ca

David Beers is Executive Editor of The Tyee.

Responses to the murder of 12 people in Paris, several of them journalists at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, included streets filled with demonstrators in support of free speech, journalists urging a firm stand against intimidation by terrorists, and heightened awareness of the controversial cartoons that had provoked a previous firebombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices by Islamists. Today…

Slate Magazine published "Charlie Hebdo's Most Controversial Religious Covers, Explained."

In The New Yorker, Amy Davidson wrote: "This was an attack on a publication and a neighborhood, a country and its press, and on any journalist, in any city. The magazine made fun of people -- of many faiths, for many follies, which we all need to be reminded that we have. Some of the cartoons were blatantly, roughly sexual, and not designed to endear them to Jews or Christians. Satire was Charlie Hebdo's mission, and a necessary one." 

The New York Times revisited the 2011 firebombing of Charlie Hebdo's offices, recalling a letter written to the International Herald Tribune: "Sohail Z. Husain, a pediatrician and member of the Muslim Writers Guild of America, paired criticism of the magazine's decisions with condemnation of those who reacted to those decisions with violence. 'As a Muslim-American belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community,' he wrote, 'I condemn the firebombing in Paris last week of Charlie Hebdo.'" And he added:

"In his lifetime, the Prophet strictly prohibited anyone from harming those who mocked him. Instead, he prayed for them and returned insult with kindness, so much so that some of their children actually decided to join the Prophet. If he were the guest editor for Charlie Hebdo, as fictitiously suggested, the Prophet would have unequivocally decried the bombing but also would have called on citizens of all faiths to make merry by working together, not by making a jest of one another's saints."

As of this afternoon, the Charlie Hebdo website bore this statement: "Je Suis Charlie."

On Twitter, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie was trending worldwide.

In the streets of Paris and its suburbs, crowds gathered to raise pens and declare "I am Charlie Hebdo." That sentiment was echoed around the world.

David Pope, the political cartoonist for the Canberra Times in Australia, tweeted his stark indictment:

Tyee readers are invited to add comments and context below.  [Tyee]

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