By Aalia Khan
Shockwaves spiralled across the world once again when cartoonists and journalists from the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo became the victims of a terror attack.
On 7th January at least 12 people were killed in the shooting incident at the Paris office, including police officers who came to help. Witnesses said that two gunmen were involved, and that they were seen armed with AK-47s and pump-action shotguns. They were heard shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is Great” in Arabic (“Allahu Akbar”.)
The paper is well known for its controversial cartoon imagery mocking all forms of authority, from politicians to religion. Amongst these included their cartoon image of Prophet Mohammed in 2011.
Of the dead were four of France’s best-known satirical cartoonists, including the magazine’s editor. A further 12 people were injured, some gravely, in what is the worst terrorist incident in France for 40 years. A Muslim police officer, Ahmed Merabet pleaded for his life to the gunmen, but unfortunately also became one of the deceased.
Police identified the suspects as Said Kouachi, 34, and his brother Cherif Kouachi, 32, both from Paris. A third man, Hamyd Mourad, 18, from Reims, turned himself in near the Belgian border after seeing his name circulating on social media. The Kouachi brothers have now been caught.
Bradford has now responded to the deadly attack by expressing their horror and disgust:
Wibsey Labour Cllr Ralph Berry said “This is a shocking attack of the freedom of the press which requires democrats to hold our values, not leap to extremes and not to retreat from tolerance and respect for each other, otherwise we end up giving to the enemies of democracy. I also reflect upon the Police Officer; who was Muslim, and there to defend the Press and Freedom.”
Bradford East MP David Ward responded “This was a clear and deliberate example of the use of terror to challenge the important principle of freedom of speech. It was not only a ‘punishment’ for those deemed to have caused offence through the content of the magazine but designed to create a fear in the rest of society. It was a stark case of individuals saying this is our belief and if you do not accept it you will be murdered. Such a view goes beyond illiberal; it is a poisonous and twisted mindset that must be defeated.”
Leader of Bradford Council, Cllr David Green commented “I think the attack was a horrific, murderous event of which there is no justification. I can see it is something that has shocked and horrified all wide thinking people of all religions and cultures and I have no hesitation in condemning it. What I would say it that I am heartened by the reaction of many people who have recognised and identified that part of the motivation was to create a backlash against the Muslim community; that is part of the purpose behind these sorts of attacks, and that is being rejected not just in France but across the UK. Every member of the Muslim community that I’ve spoken to is very clear that these attackers and murderers do not represent them or their religion. I have joined in the condemnation of this barbarous attack.
Heaton Ward Cllr Mohammad Shabbir said “It’s absolutely outrageous and brazen. What’s behind it I don’t know, there is a lot that is unclear at moment.”
Public members also expressed their views on the attack:
Shakeela Ahmed, Teacher – “This attack is shocking and disgraceful and completely against the teachings of Islam. Killing any human being is not in the hands of others but in God. These men are simply giving Islam a bad name.”
Aamir Zaman, Legal Assistant – “I think the people who took part in the attack are criminals using religion to justify their actions, and look forward to seeing them tried in court and sentenced, but I expected the French government to have been more efficient.”
Sajda sheikh, Nurse – “It’s absolutely awful for anyone to think they have the right to take somebody’s life. These continuous terrorist attacks make you wonder what is happening to the world and why these deluded people can’t see sense.”
Ariana begum, student – “I’m shocked to hear about this incident. I understand that people were upset and offended at the cartoon images this newspaper printed but to commit such an extreme act is just insane.”
Ibrahim Khan, Contact Centre worker -“It’s a terrible tragedy which has made it even harder to be a Muslim in the west. The terrorist actions have resulted in drawing more attention to freedom of speech, which is the reverse of what they wanted.”
Exclusively, Asian Sunday also managed to speak to two women who live in France regarding the recent Charlie Hebdo attack. Sophie who is of Chinese origin, 25 yrs and works in Paris as an architect developer and Audrey, who is french born, and converted to Islam.
Sophie said (via translator) “From my point of view, it’s really scary. I work in Paris and I have fear and distrust in my surroundings. It’s getting really insecure for people like us who are innocent.
Audrey told us (via translator) “They say Muslim people are terrorists and bad but true Muslims are good and Muslims do not do this! Islam is above all a GOOD religion! For me whoever did this, did not understand Islam. I’m just disappointed to see how our religion is littered with these kind of ugly people and the people who go for jihad are the same. Everyone believes that Islam is a religion and it like any other religion deserves respect so naturally if our prophet is disrespected it is wrong and we won’t be quiet about it, but taking action without such violence is my message”