This week’s New Statesman leader:
The attack on 7 January by two gunmen on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, in which at least 12 people died, was an attack on liberalism, free speech and a free press. The journalists of Charlie Hebdo are wilful, anti-establishment provocateurs, much in the style of our own Private Eye, with its traditions of Tory anarchism. Yet Charlie Hebdo is more explicitly political. Above all, it is against religion, and has bravely mocked Islam and Islamism.
As we went to press, there were reports that the gunmen, who were carrying a Kalashnikov and a rocket launcher, shouted that “we have avenged the Prophet”. Shortly before the attack Charlie Hebdo tweeted a cartoon of the Islamic State militant group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. And in 2011 it published a special issue of the magazine, “Charia Hebdo”, for which the Prophet Muhammad was named as “editor-in-chief”. A cartoon of the Prophet was published on the front cover. As a result, the magazine was firebombed. Religious fundamentalism of all forms is a malign force in the world: all secularists and liberals, as well as the moderately devout, must resist it.
Men wielding automatic rifles have stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo, killing at least 11 people, reports Reuters. Four more people, at least one of whom is a police officer, are in critical condition.
Witnesses report hearing “40-50” shots, according to a tweet by French journalist Mathieu Magnaudeix. A representative of the SBP police union, Luc Poignant, has said that the attackers escaped the scene in two vehicles. Video of the attack was captured by some witnesses:
Charlie Hebdo is a generally left-wing magazine with an anti-authoritarian and anti-religious stance. Its offices were previously firebombed on 2 November 2011, the day before an issue naming the Muslim prophet Muhammad as guest editor-in-chief was due to be published.
French president François Hollande, and other politicians, arrived at the scene shortly afterwards. He called the shooting a “terror attack”, and said that several other attacks had been “thwarted in recent weeks”. An emergency cabinet meeting has been called for 2pm today, and the offices of other Paris-based newspapers have reportedly been put under police protection.
Hollande also tweeted:
Aucun acte barbare ne saura jamais éteindre la liberté de la presse. Nous sommes un pays unis qui saura réagir et faire bloc.
— François Hollande (@fhollande) January 7, 2015
(Translation: “There is no barbaric act that will ever extinguish the freedom of the press. We are a united country which will respond.”)