With Paris in mourning over the massacre of 17 people last week because of the ire of radicals over a cartoon in the Charlie Hebdo satire magazine, there is an air of fear across the European capital as the magazine published another controversial cartoon of the prophet Muhammad yesterday.
Meanwhile, with the phrase “Je suis Charlie”—”I am Charlie”—popping up all over France and Europe, many people have taken to Twitter to start using the hashtag #IamNigeria to call attention to the 2,000 Nigerians massacred last week by Boko Haram. Though most of the 2,000 were reportedly women, children and the elderly, there has been nothing close to the global outcry that the French massacres have received. In many minds, it is just the latest illustration of the need for another popular hashtag: #BlackLivesMatter.
In response to the latest Hebdo cartoon, Dar al-Ifta, Egypt’s highest authority for religious edicts, issued a statement calling the cartoon “unjustifiably provocative to the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims worldwide who love and respect the Prophet.”
The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors radical Web postings, said there were online calls for more violence, such as a Twitter user who wrote, “They want a car bomb this time.”
And while the French are vociferously supporting the magazine’s right to free expression, French authorities ironically arrested controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala for being an “apologist for terrorism” after suggesting on Facebook that he sympathized with one of the Paris gunmen, the Guardian reported that it learned from a judicial source.
On Monday, he wrote “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly”—mixing the slogan “Je suis Charlie,” used in tribute to the journalists killed at magazine Charlie Hebdo, with a reference to gunman Amédy Coulibaly, who killed four people at a Jewish supermarket on Friday and a police officer the day before. Apparently with no reference to the hypocrisy of their actions, French police arrested Dieudonné on Wednesday.
Even for many people who abhor the murders of the Charlie Hebdo employees and the others, it’s hard to understand the greater good that’s accomplished by continually provoking in the name of free expression adherents to a religion who are telling you that your cartoons are offensive. After all, in the U.S. it is enough for Black people to say they are offended by white people in blackface or for Native Americans to say they are offended by the name Redskins for there to be a loud outcry against the offending gesture.
This whole conversation about free speech versus offensive speech is a complicated, slippery slope. The French government has in the past banned Dieudonné’s shows because it considers them “antisemitic,” while giving Charlie Hedbo free reign to mock Islam, including publishing a cartoon showing a naked Prophet Muhammad on all fours.
In a video posted on Twitter, Yemen’s al-Qaida branch on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the massacre at Charlie Hebdo, saying it was carried out in revenge for the weekly’s publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, said in the 11-minute video that the Charlie Hebdo attack was in “revenge for the prophet” and had been done on the orders of al-Qaida’s top leader Ayman al-Zawahri, Osama bin Laden’s successor. He said the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi—who carried out the attack on the paper and were subsequently killed by French authorities—were “heroes.”
“Congratulations to you, the Nation of Islam, for this revenge that has soothed our pain,” al-Ansi said. “Congratulations to you for these brave men have blown off the dust of disgrace and lit the torch of glory in the darkness of defeat and agony.”
The other attacker, Amedy Coulibaly, who killed a French policewoman Thursday and four hostages on Friday, had said in his own video that he was pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group, a fierce rival to al-Qaida, and that he had worked in coordination with the Kouachis, the “brothers from our team.”
But al-Ansi called the rival groups’ attacks a “coincidence.” Al-Ansi also accused France of belonging to the “party of Satan,” saying the European country “shared all of America’s crimes,” which apparently was a reference to France’s offensive against militants in the west African nation of Mali.
Al-Ansi warned of more “tragedies and terror” in the future.
In an emotional address, Renald Luzier, the Charlie Hebdo cartoonist who drew the latest cartoon and was only spared from the massacre last Wednesday because he was late for work, said his latest worked showed a depiction of Muhammad as “nicer than the terrorists’ Muhammad.”
The cartoon shows the prophet shedding a tear and holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign beneath a headline reading “All Is Forgiven.”
“It’s very Charlie. It’s fierce. It’s funny. It’s irreverent. A lot of people will be shocked,” said Johan Hufnagel, deputy editor of the liberal magazine, Libération, which let Charlie Hebdo employees use its offices to finish the latest edition. “They know what they’re doing at Charlie. They’re showing they have no fear.”
Luzier did not back down from mocking those who killed his friends and colleagues.
“I thought for a long time that explaining the complexity of the world through drawing would protect me from the stupidity of the world,” said Luzier, who goes by the pen name Luz. “It’s apparently not the case.”
While the magazine usually prints about 65,000 copies, the latest issue is expected to sell as many as 3 million copies. French authorities have sent out an estimated 10,000 French troops to protect Jewish synagogues, schools and other sensitive sites. Authorities believe the attackers used sophisticated equipment, including military-grade assault weapons and body armor, that suggests they may have had financial backing from overseas and likely received assistance from others in France who are still on the loose.
“We think that they could not have done what they did with just the three of them,” said Christophe Crépin, a French police union representative.
“France is at war with terrorism, jihadism and radical Islamism,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told members of the National Assembly, who responded with a standing ovation. “France is not at war with a religion. France is not at war with Islam and Muslims.”