The attack on Charlie Hebdo marks the worst attack on a magazine, despite having been threatened before. On January 7th, 2015 at about 11:30 AM, two gunmen in masks armed with rifles and other weapons went into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine in Paris. Firing up to fifty shots, they killed eleven people while shouting “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “God is [the] greatest.” The shooters then led police on a three-day chase that ended after a standoff at an industrial estate in northern Paris on January 9th, in which policemen opened fire on the armed attackers as they escaped the building. The two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, were buried in unmarked graves under tight security in fear of the graves becoming a pilgrimage site for jihadists.
The first issue of Charlie Hebdo after the attack depicts the Prophet crying, holding a sign saying “I am Charlie” in French. Above the cartoon, the words “all is forgiven” are written. Three million copies of this edition are being printed, instead of the regular 60,000. Many say that the magazine had crossed the line and had exploited their rights of freedom of speech. These toxic jokes and embarrassing depictions of religious figures have sparked widespread violence, especially in countries with bigger Muslim populations.
Is this violence justifiable? In this case, is it the victim that is to be blamed? I think not. Several innocent people were horrifically massacred because of a cartoon. Though the depiction of Mohammed was offensive and very unnecessary, the artists did not deserve to die. They couldn’t have “seen it coming.” If it is called “freedom of speech,” there should be no boundaries.
A similar situation occurred to Kurt Westergaard, a Danish cartoonist who created the controversial cartoon that depicted the prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. It was met by strong reactions from Muslims worldwide, and the artist was met with numerous death threats and assassination attempts. He is still under constant police protection to this day. Sadly, unlike Westergaard, the artists of Charlie Hebdo that were attacked won’t live to tell the tale.
As a journalist, it is a bit terrifying to think that my life could be threatened if I publish a controversial statement. The attack can be perceived as not only a threat to one magazine, but to journalists everywhere. It is sad to think that some of us must be silenced by bullets, and the fear of being attacked can stop us from writing what we really feel.
Despite the attack not being close to home, it is just as relevant as any terrorist attacks on our own soil. The events of the Charlie Hebdo attack were tragic, though the only good outcome was the increase in production and sale of the post-attack issue.