Global outrage and condemnation continues to pour in following the shocking attack on the offices of French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. The incident led to the deaths of 12 people, the majority of whom were journalists and comics working at the magazine. Amongst those killed was editor and cartoonist, Stéphane Charbonnier, renowned for his often boundary pushing comics.
The attack is reportedly to have been in retaliation to a recent picture posted on the Charlie Hebdo Twitter account, depicting the self-proclaimed head of the Islamic State (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Some experts have suggested the attack may have been perpetrated by fighters or supporters of the radical group, noting that the manner in which the gunmen went about the attack indicated some form of prior military training.
The magazine has often come under fire for its left-wing and often controversial releases, most famously a series of cartoons in 2012 depicting the Prophet Mohammed (S.A.W). After featuring a similar caricature on its cover last year, the publications offices were subsequently firebombed.
Regardless of his viewpoint on the nature of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, Journalist Arash Azizi said the incident was ultimately an extremely sad day for journalism as a whole.
“Whatever opinions we have, I mean we as journalists agree and disagree all the time on other issues, but to actually face this kind of brutal attack is quite sad and has to be condemned. It is a sad day for journalists around the world,” he stated.
He said the world would enter an extremely dangerous territory should journalists not be allowed to speak their minds, in fear of such attacks. He was also scathing in his criticism of the perpetrators, suggesting they were turning a blind eye to what was a lively tradition of debate and satire within Islam.
The attack comes amidst a growing anti-Islamic sentiment across Europe, epitomized by the Pegida protests which have hit parts of Germany. In the minutes and hours following the incident, social media was abuzz with a strong anti-Islamic outcry. And Azizi said such attacks were doing little to quell those negative perceptions, rather playing straight into the hands of radical groups.
“The extremists who use the name of Islam love the fascist and anti-Islamic sentiments that go on, because it helps them strew more hate and further their cause. Likewise, it is a happy day for fascists and Anti-Islamists, because they use this in order to substantiate their argument,” he said.
He further sought to highlight the negative impact the incident would have on the broader Muslim population.
“These fundamentalist attacks are a cancer in Muslim communities around the world. It hurts the Muslims more than anybody else, and it invites a question (against Muslims),” he said.
Whilst in admittance the some of the magazines previous comics were not to his taste, Azizi said the religion need be strong enough to not fear such criticism.
“In Islam we have a very long tradition of jokes, satire and all sorts of irrelevant types of debate. But of course these people (the perpetrators) are ignorant of this,” he said.
Two of the three suspects, named as French born brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, remain at large. The third and youngest suspect, Hamyd Mourad, 18, is reported to have surrendered himself to authorities. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)