We were barely into the New Year, echoes of everyone still wishing others the best ever, when the horrific terrorist attack in France last week blew all that apart to ratchet up another experience born in blood and the ideals of madness, the worst in half a century.
The killings at the Paris-based office of the satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, and at a kosher market was a grim reminder that there are radicalized people out there whose twisted fundamentalist version of religion is worth killing for. When it was all over Friday 17 innocent people had lost their lives and three terrorists were dead.
Outraged and angered over the killings, over three million people took to the streets in France last Sunday proudly upholding Je suis Charlie banners
The magazine Charlie Hebdo was launched in 1970 and its irreverent and profoundly non-conformist profile grabbed the ideals of the French whose cultural and historic art of satirical cartooning is entrenched in the national psyche. Its cheeky humour that respects nothing and no one is a celebrated ancient craft of line-drawing journalism. It makes its stinging point on first take.
The magazine has had its ups and downs and its Paris office was firebombed in 2011 after a particularly irreverent reference to the prophet Muhammad. But it has never backed away from an editorial policy where nothing is off limits as they lampoon jihadists and draw cartoons of the spiritual leader, another one of which appeared in the magazine Wednesday when an unprecedented three million print-run sold out in hours. It was a no brainer than Muhammad would front-cover the issue. After their colleagues died in gunfire, there was no way Charlie Hebdo survivors would cave to the barbaric will of terrorists. Like millions of Canadians, the French stand for free speech and freedom of expression.
But to many of the Islamic faith, any pictorial depiction of Muhammad is an act of blasphemy. To push the point home, Yemen’s al-Qaeda leader claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack, saying they chose the target, laid out the plan, and financed the operation.
Reading the emotional barometer, many major news networks – CBC, CNN, BBC – chose not to show some of the most inflammatory cartoons in respect to not offending the larger Muslim community.
The crisis in France has had a domino effect around the world.
Last week’s attack was not carried out by crazy terrorists but organized assassins determined to bend free-living societies to their fundamentalist will. How to deal with these pariahs has become a confusing debate among liberal-minded people around the water coolers while governments agonize over what to do as they anticipate a nasty backlash against Muslims in their midst who themselves have expressed outrage at the killings. Once more they know they will have to deal with hostile stares, slights against their children, and angry phone-in calls to talk radio. Politicians float yet more anti-terrorist policies that do little to allay fears.
Following a warning from MI5 boss in London U.K. that al-Qaeda is planning a Paris-style attack in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron announced his party would re-visit their controversial Communications Data bill, dubbed the Snoopers bill by critics, if they are re-elected with a majority in May. Basically it lays to waste any privacy whenever people talk by fixed phone, mobile phone or communicate through Internet messaging.
Canada, too, is about to table a bill to allow certain kinds of preventative arrests in the face of perceived escalating terror threats.
Like the mythical monster Hydra, the many heads of hardened jihadist cells and unstable loner terrorists will continue to surface and threaten.
We must be ready to cut them down.