Barbara Kay: Paris attack represents Islamist hate that knows no boundaries


National Post - Wednesday January 7th, 2015

Franck Prevel/Getty Images
The Charlie Hebdo' s cartoonist Luz escaped the massacre because he slept in and was late for work.

It is a black day in France for loss of human life and — more important historically — a black day for democracy’s greatest gift to the world: the principle of freedom of speech.

Three masked Islamic terrorists, armed with Kalashnikov rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade, stormed the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, killing 12 and injuring about 20, four said to be in critical condition. There seems no doubt as to the motivation for the attack. According to a witness, the assailants cried out, “We will avenge the Prophet.” The gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) as shots rang out.

After a gun fight with police outside the building, in which two officers were killed, the gunmen fled in a car (stolen after they abandoned their projected getaway car). A manhunt is under way. Security levels, already amongst the highest in the world, are being raised, the French government affirmed. Authorities said several other threats having been averted in the last few weeks. A police representative said there was a good possibility of more to come. Emergency government meetings are underway.

All totalitarian systems loathe mockery and punish those who ridicule their sacred monsters.

Foreign governments expressed their horror at the attack and their solidarity with France. President Obama condemned the attack in “the strongest possible terms.” Britain’s David Cameron said: “the murders are sickening. We stand with the French people in the fight against terror and defending the freedom of the press.” Fine words, small comfort.

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Charlie Hebdo is a satiric magazine known for its bravado on touchy subjects, especially Islam, which it has frequently – and scathingly – satirized. One of the few publications with the courage to publish the infamous Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed, which sparked threats of violence in 2005, it is hardly surprising that it should find itself  in the crosshairs of Islamists. But an attack of this magnitude has staggered the imagination even of those accustomed to threats and hatred directed at iconoclasts. Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief Gerard Biard told France Inter: “I don’t understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war.”

He is wrong. All totalitarian systems loathe mockery and punish those who ridicule their sacred monsters. Stalin purged writers who showed the slightest disrespect. The utopian vision of Islamists does not tolerate mockery. Did Mr. Biard think Islamist rage would be content forever with merely beating up Jews, burning synagogues and marching through the streets screaming “To the gas, Jews”? Whatever starts with anti-Semitism moves on to bigger fish. That is a lesson Europeans are learning, but too slowly.

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 On Charlie Hebdo’s Twitter account, the last tweet mocked Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the brutal, brutish self-declared Islamic State. Perhaps it was one poke at the hornet’s nest too many. The days of mere fatwas seem to be over. We’re dealing with grand-scale terrorism now: towers downed, kidnapping, rape, murder en masse. Whether or not these particular massacrists are devotees of al Qaeda or ISIS or are merely a cluster of self-organized lone wolves is irrelevant. They have taken their inspiration from a form of Islamism that knows no boundaries of geography or cruelty. Can we finally concede that the recent Islamist attacks make it clear they do not have the kind of “root causes” liberals brood over with such empathetic anguish. They aren’t fighting for a Palestinian state, or to protest the wealth gap.

This particular group had planned ahead. They knew that on most days few of the writers and cartoonists actually came to the Charlie Hebdo offices. They struck on the day when it was customary to hold a group editorial meeting. They were able to obtain a grenade launcher. They had a car waiting, and appear to have been prepared for police.

What will happen now? The government will tighten its security, but who can now trust that it will be effective? Many knowledgable scholars of Islam and other careful observers have warned that this day was coming; the bien-pensants rolled their eyes at them and called them conspiracy theorists, alarmists, Islamophobes. But they were right and the bien-pensants were wrong.

So now people will turn to the “alarmists” for their solutions: people like Dutch politician Geert Wilders, Nigel Farrage (leader of the UK Independence Party) and Martine Le Pen of France (president of the National Front). The mainstream politicians will make promises, but it will be too little too late. Paris is burning, but all of Europe is breathing the carbon monoxide of Islamism. Anyone who thinks it can’t happen here is a fool.

 National Post