In France 12 people are dead as the result of a terrorist attack.
At the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper, three gunmen rushed the offices in response to a 2012 depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. In Islam, it is a violation of their religion to have drawings, depictions, or any renderings of their most revered prophet, Muhammad. While this is a prohibition for members of their own religion, many of the extremists within Islam tend to push this religious requirement on non-believers through threats of violence and death.
One of the most famous cases where a fatwa, or death sentence, was issued was against Salman Rushdie who published The Satanic Verses in 1988. This book addressed a contested Muslim tradition which stated The Prophet Muhammad added verses to the Q’uran in order to accept three Meccan goddesses into the Islamic religion. The story goes on to say Muhammad recanted the addition of the verses and only did so because the devil tempted him.
Salman Rushdie made a public statement of standing in solidarity with the satirical paper:
Religion, a medieval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today.
I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.
‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion’. Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.
Another famous fatwa, issued in 2005, was the result of a depiction of The Prophet Muhammad by a Danish newspaper by Kurt Westergaard, a cartoonist. He drew a rendering of Muhammad with a set of explosives in place of the traditional turban. Since that time, he has been protected by 24-hour security and has been attacked multiple times. He has been forced to heavily fortify his home and even had someone manage to break through his back door with an axe in an attempt to kill him.
The attack that occurred this morning was the response to multiple satirical insults directed towards the Muslim religion by the satirical newspaper. In the past there have been attempted attacks against Charlie Hebdo, and their website was even hacked in 2011 for a rendering of Muhammad being used for one of their covers.
The three men that stormed the newspaper were heavily armed and hooded. They were heard to be screaming “Allahu Akbar!” which means “God is Great” in Arabic, as well as “We will avenge the prophet!”
According to Corine Rey, a cartoonist for the paper:
[I]t lasted about five minutes… I took cover under a desk… they spoke perfect French… they said they were Al-Qaida.”
10 people working for the paper were killed before the police arrived and then a deadly shootout with the authorities followed. Two police officers were gunned down by the terrorists before they fled the scene, hijacked a car, and escaped. The identities of all the gunmen are as of yet unknown. They are on the loose and dangerous.
Leaders from around the world have soundly condemned the attack on the newspaper including President Obama, Angela Merkel of Germany, and Vladmir Putin. Francois Hollande, the President of France, issued this statement:
An act of indescribable barbarity has just been committed today in Paris. Measures have been taken to find those responsible, they will be hunted for as long as it takes to catch them and bring them to justice.
Multiple terrorist attacks have been thwarted this year in France where over 5 million Muslims live — the highest concentration of Muslims in Europe. While these attacks are horrendous, they are not representative of all Muslims, nor even indicative of the actions of the majority. The massive manhunt is currently underway and hopefully this will not result in retributive action towards the Muslim populace in France or abroad.