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In the days following the two attacks, more than 1.5 million people took to the streets of Paris to demonstrate their unity against terrorism, many wearing blindfolds and waving banners with the words “I am Charlie“The slogan has become a symbol of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo magazine and a declaration of unity between French citizens.
But Yasser Louati, who was teaching English in Paris at the time, says the feeling of unity did not last long. According to him, January 2015 represented a turning point in the way Muslims were treated in France.
“I mean, there was a before and after January 2015. Unfortunately, after January 2015, Islamophobia exploded in France. ”
Yasser Louati, human rights activist, Justice and Freedoms for All Committee, Paris, France
“I mean, there was a before and after January 2015. Unfortunately, after January 2015, Islamophobia exploded in France,” Louati said.
In the days following the shootings, it became apparent that the perpetrators of the attacks, the Kouachi brothers, had been born, raised and radicalized in France.
Louati, now a human rights activist in a group called the Justice and Freedoms for All Committee, vividly remembers the terror of January 2015.
One of Louati’s students received a phone call during class about the supermarket attack. Louati’s 6-year-old son was attending school two blocks from the store, so he rushed into the area on his motorbike but police stopped him a mile from the scene. Louati says he remembers this long walk very well.
“Try to imagine this mile of walking, not knowing if my son was injured or if something happened at his school. Because they talked about an ongoing shooting in this area, ”Louati said.
All the children were eventually brought to safety.
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Ten months later, on November 13, 2015, Islamist terrorists struck again – this time in a series of coordinated attacks across Paris, killing 130 people. President Francois Hollande has announced a nationwide state of emergency. The new laws gave the police exceptional search and arrest powers, but Louati says the main target was the Muslim community.
Louati believes that while many in Paris have focused on the role that religion has played in inciting armed men to commit such heinous acts, few have questioned whether their education in Paris may have played a role as well.
Many families, he says, were looted by police following calls from their neighbors – who didn’t know much about their religion.
“For example, if the wife wears the hijab, if the husband wears a beard. If there is a simple suspicion that you are a “radical” Muslim, then you lose all of your basic fundamental freedoms. ”
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French jurist Rim-Sarah Alouane claims that the Charlie Hebdo attack allowed those who were already suspicious of Islam to openly show their sectarianism. Emergency laws were extended every six months, and ultimately, Alouane says they were effectively enacted into common law.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric – once seen as the preserve of far-right politicians like Marine Le Pen – was launched by centrist politicians and journalists on national television, explains Philippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics at the University College London.
« I am CharlieNo longer seemed to be a question of unity, but of conforming to a vague idea of French identity that left little room for religious diversity.
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“Whatever your origin, your ethnicity, your religion, you had to conform more and more to an elusive sort of French identity, which, when you read between the lines, is the kind of ‘standard’ French: white, Catholic, or atheist, but there certainly isn’t much room for Muslims in there. ”
Philippe Marlière, professor of French and European politics, University Collge London
“Whatever your origin, your ethnicity, your religion, you had to conform more and more to an elusive sort of French identity, which, when you read between the lines, is the kind of ‘standard’ French: white, Catholic or atheist, but there is certainly not much room for Muslims in there, ”said Marlière.
The drift of Macron’s party The Republic on the march to the right seems to be worsened by the recent announcement by the French president of a new bill to fight against radical Islam, or “Islamist separatism”, as he puts it. calls.
The legislation aims to reduce foreign funding for mosques and requires imams to be trained and certified in France. Many Muslims believe they are being unfairly targeted again. But a recent survey in France shows that 75% of respondents approved the new bill.
French author Alexandre Del Valle is among those who support the president’s plans.
“Mr. Macron is very courageous against the Muslim Brotherhood, against radical separatism. It is suicide if we accept radical Islam. Allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to control mosques and Muslim associations is like accepting the Nazis to take control of schools, ”he told World.
Del Valle doesn’t buy Charlie Hebdo magazine and doesn’t particularly like its cover. He also did not approve of the newspaper’s recent decision to reprint the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, which sparked the 2015 attack. But Del Valle believes Charlie Hebdo should have the right to publish whatever he wants. Freedom of expression is an “essential freedom” in France, he said.
Prof Marlière says the magazine’s tone has changed over the years from a satirical liberal newspaper to one that appears to repeatedly target Muslims.
Louati, who is a Muslim, says the reprint of the cartoon was deeply offensive.
“If Charlie Hebdo is really about free speech, what about Charlie Hebdo who mocks journalists who got killed in the newsroom?” It would be extremely unacceptable. But it wouldn’t be more immoral than making fun of the poor Kurdish boy who was found dead on a beach because his parents were trying to flee war-torn Syria for a better life, ”Louati said.
The magazine published a mocking caricature of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian boy whose body was found stranded on a Turkish beach in 2015 after capsizing the hall his family had used to try to reach Greece.
The debate over freedom of expression in France after the Charlie Hebdo attack extends beyond newspapers and magazines. After January 2015, French comedians wondered which subjects were right for their jokes.
Jonathan Ervine, lecturer in French at Bangor University and author of “Humor in Contemporary France”, explains that several comedy programs were cut from television programs immediately after the attack. The famous French comedian Stéphane Guillon spoke of his fear of the consequences of making fun of the Prophet Muhammad, says Ervine.
“If you can die because of a drawing, you can die because of a sketch,” Guillon said in 2016.
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Muslim comedians also question what they can and cannot say, but Ervine says he spoke with Mustapha El Atrassi and Sophia Aram, both of French Moroccan origin, who believe that it is more than ever necessary to approach sensitive subjects with humor.
For five weeks, the trial of 14 people accused of being complicit in the Charlie Hebdo attack, heard heartbreaking testimonies from survivors. It is a reminder of the feeling of terror that reigned in Paris in the months following the attack.
French scholar Alouane said 2015 and 2016 were “difficult years in France”. But after a few years, people got tired of hearing the word terrorism everywhere and didn’t want to live in fear anymore, she said. Today, says Alouane, they just want to go on living. “Now we think ‘carpe diem, seize the day.'”
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