France under attack: The Tribune India

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A spate of terrorist attacks has rocked France since satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo reposted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in September, the latest being the murder of three people in a Nice church on Thursday. Provocative as always, Charlie Hebdo took the controversial step at the start of the trial in the 2015 carnage in which two al-Qaida extremists, angered by the cartoons, broke into its newsroom and killed 12 people. What enraged the Muslim world even more is the firm stance of French President Emmanuel Macron, who defended Charlie Hebdo’s free speech and dubbed Islam a religion “going through a crisis.” While paying tribute to a teacher recently beheaded after showing the cartoons to his class, Macron said France would not give up its freedoms.

Although Charlie Hebdo – whose precursor was aptly called Hara-kiri Hebdo – is known to go too far at times, the use of violence and terror to stifle free speech is reprehensible. The publication of something scandalous, even if it is considered blasphemous by a community, cannot justify the bloodshed. To make matters worse, rioters like former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who said Muslims have the right to “kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.” Ironically, such statements fuel Islamophobia. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other leaders also stoked the flames by launching personal attacks on Macron, drawing sharp criticism from France’s old ally India, which opposed the ” violation of the most elementary norms of international discourse ”.

In this crowded atmosphere with dangerous implications for the whole world, it is imperative that the international community speak with one voice against terrorism in any form. As a democratic and sovereign republic, France – which has a Muslim population of around 9% – is free to take strict measures in the interest of its internal security. But it can also explore a middle path, drawing on Russia’s reaction that it is unacceptable to kill people, but also unfair to insult the feelings of religious believers.



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