Today the world woke up to a tragedy in Paris, France as news reports began trickling in about a massacre at one of France’s most esteemed and beloved satire magazines, Charlie Hebdo. It turns out that two or three masked gunmen armed with AK-47s and using what seems to be military training and discipline stormed the office of the magazine and began firing before engaging in a shootout with police, hijacking a car, and making a successful getaway. While we don’t know who was behind the attack, the attackers were heard yelling about how they had avenged the prophet as well as “Allahu akbar”, an arabic phrase meaning “God is great”. It is believed that the offices of Charlie Hebdo were attacked due to the magazine continuously poking fun at Mohammed and illustration cartoons of him, something that is forbidden in Islam.
Among the dead were a number of higher-ups in the magazine and possibly some of the policemen who initially responded to the attack and engaged the much-heavier armed terrorists before they managed to escape. It seems as though the attackers were looking to kill as many as they could as well as a certain group of cartoonists and editors at the magazine. Reports say that the attackers asked for editor and cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier (also known as Charb) and well-known cartoonists Jean Cabut (aka Cabu), Bernard Verlhac (aka Tingous), and Georges Wolinski to make sure that they were amongst the dead before fleeing the building. While Charlie Hebdo has faced attacks in the past (it had previously been firebombed in 2011), this is the first time people have died. There is no other way to look at this attack than one on freedom of speech and democracy. While Islam is the only religion major to forbid the creation of human form in art, both Christianity and Judaism frown upon that sort of thing too.
With reports also claiming that one of the gunmen told a civilian that Al-Qaeda in Yemen was responsible for this, it seems as though it was an ideologically motivated attack. However until someone gets caught or takes credit publically, we won’t know the true reasons behind the attack and can only speculate. Our hearts go out to France and those who lost loved ones and we hope that those who did it will be caught soon and brought to the fullest extent of the law.
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