The attack on Charlie Hebdo

Published: January 11, 2015

When three hooded gunmen recently attacked and killed the editorial staff of a vicious satirical journal in Paris which ridiculed Judaism, Catholicism and Islam — the West was fuming. Good God. This is a blatant attack on the Freedom of the Press. To the Brits, French and the Germans, it was worse than a Middle East wake. David Cameron was enraged. Angela Merkel was enraged. Francois Hollande was enraged. I think somebody even quoted Voltaire… I don’t know what Thorning Schmidt’s reaction was; after all, it was in Denmark where the mischievous pictorial attacks originated, inducing Islamic countries to ban imports from the Scandinavian country. Barack Obama condemned the violence. He offered FBI help to ferret out the rest of the terrorists. But deep down, I honestly don’t think he would ever endorse ridiculing and mocking any prophet, and especially one who is held in deep awe and reverence by such a large body of worshippers, some of whom turn to violence as the only means of settling a dispute. In fact, when it was brought to his notice that Terry Jones, a pastor in Gainesville, Florida was planning to burn 2,988 kerosene-soaked copies of the Holy Quran, he made jolly sure the pastor would be hauled up on a felony charge.

Not many French people supported the scurrilous attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which didn’t have a particularly large circulation. On more than one occasion, government ministers in France had warned the editor and the staff of the offensive journal to soften their tone after the appearance of some reprehensible, highly disgusting cartoons that were produced about Jesus Christ. The Catholics in France were enraged; and after receiving threats, the weekly was provided police protection. Now don’t get me wrong. I have a great regard for cartoonists. They have a gift for executing a drawing in an exaggerated style for humorous or satirical effect and can convey a universe of thought in a single picture. For years, I have marvelled at the wit of Larry, Low, Clark, Scarfe, Mahoud, Langdon and Bell. In fact, among my books are many collections of the best of Punch, The New Yorker and Private Eye where the world’s finest cartoons have been parked. Across the eastern border, Abu and R K Laxman kept me amused for as long as I can remember. Both artists paid special attention to popular tropes without too much fuss or fanfare. But… in all the years that I have looked at caricatures I have never, not even once, come across a drawing that deliberately insulted or ridiculed a prophet. Of course, there are lots of funny stories and anecdotes about people of various nationalities and religions. And even titular heads of various faiths and sects have had their share of rebuke. But so far as the willful attacks on prophets are concerned, Jyllands-Posten and Charlie Hebdo are two notorious examples.

In today’s world, members of the Muslim faith react more sharply to actual or perceived provocations than members of other faiths. And the censure is often violent, swift and decisive. Murder is murder, and the offenders should be dealt with according to the law of the land. But can anybody deny that the staff of the magazine didn’t have it coming? That they weren’t asking for it? In Pakistan, where freedom of the press is a highly relative term, 56 journalists have perished in the line of duty. But I don’t remember anybody at the BBC or CNN or Deutsche Welle saying, “There has been another blatant attack on the freedom of the press.” In the land of the pure, it happens all the time.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Jan 11, 2015 - 4:49AM

    “But can anybody deny that the staff of the magazine didn’t have it coming? That they weren’t asking for it?”

    Reminds me of the age of reasons Rapists give. “She was asking for it”.

    Shameful article.

    To question Religion is mandatory for a progressive society – Satire is just one form of questioning. Everything should be questioned, every ideology, every thought, every action. Thats the natural process of Human Beings.

    This is called scientific temper.

    If we didn’t question Religious Ideas, Galileo would just be another Italian. If Rajaram Mohan Roy didn’t question Sati, it would still be around in India.

    The moment we all accept Religion are man-made and has bugs/programming errors in them, the better it is.


  • Ahmed
    Jan 11, 2015 - 7:32AM

    Anwer: There is an undertone that you are justifying the cowardly attack on the editorial staff. This is the language of the school bully who says its my way. If not, then I will beat you. Shame!!!


  • Subhash
    Jan 11, 2015 - 8:12AM

    I didn’t understand what the article is trying to say.


  • Amir Hamza
    Jan 11, 2015 - 8:48AM

    All terrorist are M

    and all murderer follow only one religion “I”


  • excalibur
    Jan 11, 2015 - 9:14AM

    Why is it still being kept secret that Charlie Hebdo had forced one of its cartoonists ti resign for being antiSemitic. Shows the influence of Jewish lobbies in the West and a hypocrisy that invites violent acts

    Anti Semitic Laws in the West are a slap on the Freedom of Expression


  • GIN
    Jan 11, 2015 - 10:02AM

    Unhappiness is the root cause of the problems in the Muslim world. Due to some reason they are perpetually unhappy and cannot find mental peace. The wise thing for rest of the world to do is to leave Muslims alone and let them figure out problems among themselves without outside interference. Rest of the world should cut them off until they figure out their problems. Muslim world should come up with their own version of Islamic internet to avoid getting exposed to blaphemous contents on the net.It is a shame that Muslim economic and scientific contribution to the world economy is nil and oil is the only reason why rest of the world engages with Islamic countries. Oil alternatives are around the corner.Without American support Islamic kingdoms would have collapsed like a pack of cards.


  • M7
    Jan 11, 2015 - 12:47PM

    Islam is a relegion of Peace.Recommend

  • MSS
    Jan 11, 2015 - 1:09PM

    Sir Anwer Mooraj, you are supporting suppression of free speech even though you are a journalist. You are obviously condoning violence in the name of religion. I am sorry to see that instead of producing an intellectual discourse you have succumbed to religious pressures.


  • Parvez
    Jan 11, 2015 - 3:58PM

    …….freedom of speech must be accompanied by responsible speech.


  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 11, 2015 - 8:37PM

    I do not think we will ever really know what happened in Paris, or why. There are too many unanswered questions, as usual, and all the so called culprits are now dead,


  • Aftab
    Jan 12, 2015 - 12:13AM

    There we go again! The ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ argument again! Murder is wrong….but….! Murder is wrong…however….if…! Why? Why can’t we call a spade a spade? For once, show solidarity, be part of the human race, don’t be an apologist! Two wrongs don’t make a right! What was carried out in Paris wrong! Period! The criminals that carried out were just that, criminals! They happened to have Muslim names! I will not defend my religion in their name. No sir! My take on Islam is totally different! It does not justify murder. Not in my name, not in The Prophet’s name, not in God Almighty’s name! Please, please, for once stop being an apologist for these crazy people! Enough!


  • numbersnumbers
    Jan 12, 2015 - 12:17AM

    @Sexton Blake:
    Wow, “!so called culprits”!
    Wonder if the culprit (Oops, so-called “culprit”!) at the Jewish market was really just an innocent Muslim the police and the now dead hostages set up to take the fall??? NOT!
    More conspiracy crap from @Sexton Blake, as usual!


  • Truth be told
    Jan 12, 2015 - 12:24AM

    For anyone who is in search of truth, questioning is mandatory. One should be free to question anything and everything including religion, any religion.
    If the religion is strong enough, it will survive the questioning.Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Jan 12, 2015 - 12:59AM

    I stand like million others in complete solidarity with the people of France and am proud to say that Je suis Charlie!! This is what the people of France need today, neither apologies nor condemnation of one or the other. but a solidarity with the loved ones of those who perished and the total people of France. I pray that the French people rise to the challenge and stay as one people!! The author is missing the opportunity when he tries to relatavise the massacre of journalists cartoonists whose caricaturing induces subjective opinions.

    Rex Minor


  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 12, 2015 - 6:57AM

    Dear numbers,
    Good to see you are still on board writing your usual nonsense, but have a Happy New Year anyway. I could explain what really happened, but I doubt that you would be able to understand the relatively simple complexities involved. The other problem I have is that a certain country is involved and I do not wish to get ET into trouble, but may try later. The only problems I am constantly facing are the totally conditioned masses, such as you, who will believe anything they are told on mainstream media..


  • Milind
    Jan 12, 2015 - 11:13AM

    @BruteForce – I always agree with you, but have to disagree on this one.

    The thinking and way of life is different in the West, compare to East.
    Some things are sacred and others need to respect the sentiments of a group of folks, rather than ridicule these.

    I personally would not be agree with vulgarly ridiculing Hindu deities, just for freedom of expression and would extend the courtesy to Muslims.

    The author is correct, however he should have advised his co-religionists to respect the religious sentiments of others and way of life of others. They may not ridicule other religions, but often we see news of places of worship (temples, churches) being burnt or not allowed to be constructed in Muslim lands.


  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 12, 2015 - 3:15PM

    There are a couple of other religions which I will call religion 1 and 2 which started up from the Palestine region, and religion 1 insists that its founder could actually walk on water. Both of these religions have been particularly brutal in the past, but I will not go into details. However, in recent times these religions have become very covert and subtle in the way they handle brutal situations. Religion 2 in particular virtually controls the media and several Western governments. The media always presents religion 2 in a flattering way, but is exactly opposite when it come to Islam. Also, most Western countries have introduced legislation which makes it illegal to express views which disagree with religion 2 in public or the web, and if you do it becomes long prison time with truth not being an excuse. In regard to Islam there are few if any real media protections and virtually any rubbish can be printed with impunity, which leads to explosive situations. Like Anwer Mooraj I agree that media personnel should not be assassinated, but on the other hand they should act responsibly, and we see little of that where Islam is concerned.


  • politically incorrect
    Jan 13, 2015 - 2:58AM

    @Sexton Blake

    If you respect a particular religion or ideology, that’s fine with me. But why do you have to solicit the same respect from others. Others are free to differ just as you are free to revere.


  • ajeet
    Jan 13, 2015 - 4:03AM

    Looks like god needs man to protect him.


  • sam@abe
    Jan 13, 2015 - 4:35AM

    Mankind has only prospered mentally when he has let go of ‘sacred cows’ …religions and ideologies have only arisen because of someone questioning the existing state of the world… Hopefully someday, Muslims will refer to these times as the dark ages.


  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 13, 2015 - 6:55PM

    @politically incorrect:
    Dear politically incorrect,
    I could write a long incisive reply to your missive, but along with most you obviously belong to the Western media conditioned masses, and I would be wasting my time. However, may I point out that since a few unfortunate people were killed in Paris many times that number of women and children are no longer with us as a result of drone strikes by our benevolent Western masters who in turn are under the control of a country in the Mediterranean area. Then again, as you point out, others are free to differ and using your logic it is probably OK to kill some people, but not others. I hope this helps you?


  • politically incorrect
    Jan 14, 2015 - 12:10AM

    @Sexton Blake

    You assumed that I belong to the ‘Western media conditioned masses’. No I don’t. I also do not believe in such labeling of media as western, eastern, or whatever. I didn’t believe when a section of the so called ‘western media’ cried horse that Iraq had WMD. It’s also worth noting that most vile acts of the west, from Mai-lai (Vietnam) to Abu-Ghraib, from Guantanamo to Gaza are revealed by the same so called ‘western media’. The west for much of the last 4 centuries have gathered the intellectual strength to critically look at themselves when they need to. It might surprise you that they can even lough at themselves.
    However, coming back to the issue in hand, I think your reference to the casualties of drone attack while discussing Charlie hebdo massacre is an example of ‘false equivalence’. The ‘Charlie hebdo’ is about freedom of thought, speech and expression. It is and should be seen as an war (I use the word only as a metaphor) of ideas; where the only weapon (again as a metaphor) could be a ‘pen’ not a ‘gun’. A school (as in Peshawar), or a news paper office (as in Paris) is not a war zone. Drone related activities are the result of political power struggle between two equally violent group each accusing the other of more violence.


  • politically incorrect
    Jan 14, 2015 - 5:08PM

    Sorry, for the typo. Should be cried ‘hoarse’ not ‘horse’..


  • sarah tj
    Jan 14, 2015 - 11:52PM

    @politically incorrect: injustice and cruelty are the root causes of terrorism acts like drone attacks and publishing blasphemous cartoons generates and provoke wrath and anger which brings results like this they should have seen that coming every action has a reaction I totally agree with the writer you may be religiously incorrect but I m not.


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