In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo


Usually I don’t post about ongoing facts, the risk of being too emotional – not to mention inaccurate – is too high. But what happen today in Paris, with the terrorist assault of the offices of the “Charlie Hebdo” and the consequent deaths of twelve people (plus five more seriously injured and six other damaged) is something that I simply cannot ignore. So I choose an example of the works of Cabu (Jean Cabut, one of the victims) as a flag for todays’ words, trying to do my best to keep a cool head.

I will not draw any conclusion about who ordered the attack, nor about the three gunmen involved. French authorities are doing their very best to solve this hideous crime, in due time we will know who perpetrate this attack and why it happened. The real deal here is not about the tragic deaths of twelve people, nor is about a terrorist strike in the heart of Europe. There are other things at stake here, each one worth of a lot of thoughts.

First, the very concept of freedom. Charlie Hebdo is thick as a brick when it comes to satirize religion and power. I often found myself uneasy with their covers or with their cartoons. But they have the right to write or to draw whatever they like to, with the secular laws of France to be respected. Nobody has the right to suppress a free voice, no matter what kind of god they prey or whatever else. The so-called western world has been founded on democracy, we can’t forget that.

Second, this is the moment of pain and rage. I think that everybody has read some very hard message on the social media and heard some politician yell against immigration, Islam or against extremism of any kind. At the same time we see awful words about the concept “they deserve what happened, they see it coming”. I still remember what I’ve read in the wake of 9/11, all that people that asked for a nuclear bombing on the Afghanistan or the Saudi Arabia.

Third, if this attack is really tied to the most extreme fringes of Islamist movements, like Al-Quaeda or ISIS, we must remember that the first victim is the concept of coexistence between people of different religion in Europe. It’s easy to say that tomorrow we will see more enmity, that there will more pressure for have more radical policies against whatever could be labeled as “islamic”. Nobody will approve the request for a new mosque or for a new islamic cultural center. That will radicalize more people and widen the gap between muslims and not-muslims.

Fourth, for what I’ve written above is the task of this generation of imam and key figures between the growing muslim population of Europe to stand up for freedom. The only way we have to stop this madness is to eradicate whatever support radical Islamism could find here. No money, no friends, no medical care, no hospitality. It’s a difficult task but if they fail… well, the next few years will be bitter and bitter, for all of us. I can’t care less about religious beliefs but I still think that everybody should be free to believe in what he or she likes.

Fifth, this kind of attacks is not like the suicidal bombings we already know. This is not about one or more people with a bomb and a desire to die with its victims. Those guys knows their business. It’s likely that they fight somewhere in the recent past. To be more clear, they show the basic traits of infantry soldiers. Controlled use of the weapons, tactical cover while moving, a plan based on intelligence and a pre-planned escape route. They look like pros.

Time will tell us what’s happened, we will know the truth. In the meantime, we should try to keep a cool head about all that. After six years of economic crisis, with the spectres of more misery and uncertainty in our future, we as Europeans have to recover an identity, a project for the times to come. Hopefully without all-out wars.

4 thoughts on “In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo

  1. Your words are wise, balanced and rational as always.

    I must say that I was positively surprised by the reaction that I have perceived from the French people; to me, they seemed deeply convinced that the solution is a peaceful and respectful coexistence rather than being pushed in to the arms of nationalism, racism, and intolerance.
    I feared that the most extremist parties (even outside France) could gain momentum, but it seems that France had reacted in a better way.

    • Well, France is (and was) a good surprise for me, too. And a really bad one for people like Marine Le Pen. They find an identity to hold on, that very idea of the Republique – a concept able to trascend generations and different cultures. If this will the real heritage of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks, well, I cannot imagine a worst defeat for the attackers. The emotional tide will subside soon and the hard facts will pop up again. Inequality, fear, ignorance and all the other bad things are still here, waiting to strike back. We will see what will happen in the years to come, maybe still with a nice pencil at hand.

      • And maybe also remembering that having a pencil in the hand is a democratic right and as such it must be utterly defended; and also that like every other right, it comes with the responsibility to use it wisely and not against the rights of other people, or else it is not freedom at all.

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