- - Thursday, January 8, 2015


The attack on the offices and staff of the French satirical paper, Charlie Hebdo, by three heavily armed men shouting out the name of God in Arabic is nothing less than a declaration of war by hordes of heathen barbarians against the civilized world. They would want us to think that they are acting in the name of God. They shouted the words “Allahu akbar,” God is great, every time they murdered one of their victims. Then, before getting into a getaway car, they were reported to have shouted, “The prophet is avenged.”

Do not be fooled — they are as distanced from Islam as can possibly be. There is a stark reality in the saying that truth is the first casualty of war. Indeed it is.

The gunmen may have believed they were acting in the name of God by slaughtering 10 members of the paper’s staff and two policemen, one of who was Muslim, but let us not fall into the same trap. The aim of the killings at Charlie Hebdo likely had nothing to do with avenging the prophet or seeking revenge for having poked fun at the prophet. Those who ordered the Paris attack very possibly could care less about what a French satirical weekly rag has to say. Indeed, their aims could be far more ambitious and devious: to trigger a vast knee-jerk reaction from the French authorities and public that would generate a huge wave of ant-Muslim sentiment. This, in turn, would justify in the eyes of these extremists greater acts of terror.

What we saw happen in the French capital on Wednesday is only the beginning of what may well be the fallout effect of returning jihadis from the war in Syria. Eyewitnesses to the Paris massacre reported that two of the three gunmen spoke perfect French, an indication that they were not foreigners. The video footage that caught the gunmen in action reveals that they clearly had some sort of military training.

When three individuals walk nonchalantly down the streets of Paris in broad daylight killing innocent French citizens, something is terribly wrong. Something is also terribly wrong when so-called Muslims believe they are right in murdering innocent people in the name of Allah. In reality, every time such criminals utter the name of the Almighty, they blaspheme. No God would ever condone such barbarism, regardless of what an offending publication printed. Disagreeing with a point of view, no matter how critical, does not grant one a license to commit murder.

Charlie Hebdo is a satirical publication. Since its inception during the heyday of the great student uprising in France in May 1968, the editors of Charlie Hebdo have been on the forefront of making light of any and all controversy. Nothing and no one was considered too sacred.

France faces a dilemma. The government of President Francois Hollande needs to act decisively. That means more than rushing to the scene of the crime for a photo-op, as he did following the massacre on Wednesday. The policy of appeasement shown toward terrorists from all over the troubled world — Palestinians in the 1970s, Lebanese in the 1980s, Algerians in the 1990s and Iranians throughout — needs to be seriously re-examined and changed.

Successive French governments from the left and the right have been lenient toward terror groups, believing that France would be spared from terror attacks. That has been wishful thinking. French paratroopers were slaughtered in Beirut only moments after the U.S. Marine barracks was blown up at Beirut International Airport in October 1983, killing 241 U.S. servicemen. France lost 58 men in that explosion. In Lebanon more than a dozen French citizens, schoolteachers and journalists were abducted and held, some for several years, and some died in captivity. Neither were the country’s diplomats spared. The French Ministry of Foreign Affairs lost several ambassadors to terrorism. Nor were the streets of its cities spared the horrors of car bombs.

There are two levels of culprit in the Paris attack: those who planned the operation and those who pulled the trigger. Both should be made to pay. French security forces acted fast and within 12 hours of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, anti-terrorist units had identified two brothers with ties to al Qaeda in Iraq and Yemen as belonging to the purported trio of perpetrators in Wednesday’s attack. A third man turned himself in. Meanwhile, France remains tonight under strict security conditions.

Those who ordered and planned the attack should be made to pay. There are not enough bullets in the world to silence the press in a free society. And those who carried out this ignoble act must come to the realization that they are living a double illusion: first, that they are can silence the media in a free society by bullying them, and second, that they are carrying out the will of Allah. They are mistaken on both counts.

Claude Salhani is senior editor with Trend News Agency and for many years a faithful reader of Charlie Hebdo.

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