Twelve people were executed and eleven injured today after gunmen targeted staff by name at the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine, in the heart of Paris, France. The editor, journalists, and four well known cartoonists and two police offices were murdered by gunman using assault rifles shouting “Allahu Akbar,” an Islamic phrase meaning “God is greater”. The three gunmen are still at large – they escaped by car which has since been found abandoned, though someone has been arrested in Reims, north-east of Paris.
Other cities in France – Nantes, Tours and Dijon – have seen attacks on a smaller scale by lone individuals in the past 4 weeks and France has been on a state of alert over the Christmas period as a result.
The French Republic has been confrontational in dealing with violent Islamist groups in their territories worldwide, and tolerates no religious extremism from any group, recently banning the wearing of the burqa veil in public for Muslim women.
Human values and freedom of the press are at the heart of the issue for many, as hundreds gather in Paris and London, mourning and protesting at the horror of the attack. The controversial magazine has often mocked politicians and religions. The Charlie Hebdo offices were firebombed in 2011 and its website was hacked, after the cover featured the prophet Muhammad. In 2012 the magazine again published crude Muhammad caricatures, drawing condemnation from around the Muslim world.
The cover of this week’s issue of the newspaper focuses on a new book by Michel Houellebecq, “Submission,” published today, which depicts France led by an Islamic party by 2022 that bans women from the workplace.
Paris, and many cities in France and the UK are on high alert, as concern that shopping centres, media and newspaper offices, and religious organisations may be soft targets for extremists.
How do we stop this happening in our cities?