The Paris attack and extremist Europe

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The Paris attack and extremist Europe

By Cristiana Moisescu

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On Wednesday (7/1) there was an attack on the French magazine offices of Charlie Hebdo. 12 people died and there have been many different reactions: shock and solidarity, anti-Muslim feelings, and saying it’s wrong to publish the cartoons.

Most of the media have said the attackers were wrong. They say freedom of speech is the most important thing. Around the world, many people are discussing: was the magazine Charlie Hebdo right to ‘push the limits’ of satire?

And that is the problem.

Charlie Hebdo did not publish cartoons for fun. There is a big difference between criticizing a group of people and criticizing a set of ideas (eg. a religion). Also, if we criticize the religions of Islam, or Judaism, or Christianity, this is not the same as criticizing the small extreme groups inside these religions. These extreme groups have a lot of political power. Religion should not have political power any more.

Freedom of expression does not stop where there are cultural taboos. Maybe the main responsibility of freedom of expression is to challenge the taboos and say what other people cannot say. When there is more danger, it is more important to ask questions: when people say they will kill you, or bomb your office, when you need police protection to do your job, and you still keep doing it.

But many people, including the French government, have criticized Charlie Hebdo. Now everyone supports the magazine. Before, people said it was making the problem worse, but now they say the magazine is a symbol of France. They say it’s the 9/11 of France.

This is very important. The attack on Charlie Hebdo is more about politics than religion. And it is about the same politics that is the reason they publish anti-Islamist cartoons. And politics is nothing without powerful symbols behind it.

The attackers were not like a suicide bomber, alone, with a home-made bomb tied to his body. They were professionals. They were smart, they spoke perfect French, they knew what they were going to do – probably they had visited the office before. They make us more afraid because they are not madmen - they planned it all carefully.

This is clever and forced the government to call it a terrorist attack, like 9/11. French officials are linking this to the ‘war on terror’. This could be dangerous. If the French government keeps talking like this, the extreme rightwing and fundamentalists will win.

Marine Le Pen (leader of the far-right Front Nationale), has quickly tried to get more votes because of this. She is also saying ‘France is at war’. She says they need better borders and a tougher police force, and they need to decide if they need the death penalty.

In Germany, the anti-Islam Pegida protesters now have a perfect reason to exist. They say we must protect Europe against ‘people like them’. In Britain, UKIP leader Nigel Farage blames the attacks on multiculturalism and too much immigration – to try to get more votes.

And, on the other side, somewhere in Syria, Islamic State (IS)’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is having the best day of his life.

People have linked the terrorists to al-Qaeda and IS. This confuses everything, and both organizations (IS developed from al-Qaeda) will win from this. More people will join them because they promise empowerment - what their ‘Western’ lifestyle has not been able to give them. This promise of power is very attractive for the many people who are on the edge of society.

Between these two extremes are many ordinary people. Most of Europe is tolerant, with real multiculturalism. And because of the attacks, many people across the world are protesting to make people think and stand together.

Maybe this moderate attitude will not continue if we have more attacks.

If the extremists divide Europe into small countries that protect their borders, they will win.

The day after the attacks, the headline of many newspapers in France was ‘Freedom has been killed’. This shows the effect of the attack on France’s ideas of freedom – this is the result the attackers wanted.

Everyone wants to understand why this attack happened. But it is wrong to make it a problem of ‘us’ and ‘them’ (Which us? Which them?). We must unite, not separate.

There is already disagreement in the French government. They have planned a memorial march this Sunday in France, but they have not invited the Front Nationale.

And also, people say Muslims must speak against the attacks. But the attacks have nothing to do with most of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims. It was a political extremist attack, trying to hide under religion.

It seems France is at war. People have attached four mosques already. The war has begun, but who is fighting it?

And the people from Charlie Hebdo are tragic victims of a political conflict hiding under religious taboo. What would happen if media around the world showed the cartoons tomorrow – would this break the taboo or make it stronger?

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2015/01/09/paris-attack-extremism/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).