The year 2015 was a year of extremism, evident through attacks — whether they be the terrorist attacks of Europe, mass shootings of America, or the hostile violence in the Middle East — throughout the world. However, a large chunk of the terrors that occurred happened in France. Before 2015, around eleven people had died in terrorist attacks throughout France since 2000. But, 2015 started with a massive attack that led to the death of twenty and the injuring of twenty-two. That of the mass shootings of Charlie Hebdo.
On January 7th, 2015, a mass shooting of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, carried out by two Islamist gunmen who identified themselves as radical Al-Qaeda members from Yemen. These two men, brothers by the names of Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, along with a third gunman and close friend by the name of Amedy Coulibaly, were responsible for the largest terror attack in France since the June 1961 Vitry-Le-François train bombing which killed twenty-eight and injured 100+. The saddening fact is the Charlie Hebdo shootings weren’t going to be the most deadly attack on French soil in 2015.
At around 11:30 local time on January 7th, 2015, the Kouachi brothers forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France with assault rifles and other weaponry. They killed eleven people and injured eleven more before killing a French National Police officer outsider the building. The gunmen identified themselves as belonging to Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, who took responsibility for the attack. But, of course they would. The idea of terrorism is to spread fear, something this attack unfortunately did. Several related attacks later occured in the region, where a further five were mercilessly killed and another eleven were wounded severely.
France was forced to deploy soldiers in the Île-de-France and Picardy regions. A massive manhunt, the first of 2015, led to the discovery of the suspects. An exchange of fire with police occurred, and the brothers took hostages on January 9th before they were shot dead when they emerged from the building in defeat.
On January 11th, four days after the initial attack, about two million people — including more than 40 world leaders from around the world — met in Paris for a rally of national and international unity. Almost four million people joined demonstrations across France, and the phrase Je suis Charlie (I am Charlie) had been adopted by all supporters for freedom of speech and press after the massacre that had just occurred.
While the idea of having world leaders coming together to show unity, perhaps holding a demonstration immediately after a terrorist attack in the surrounding area with all the most important people on Earth in one area wasn’t such a bright idea. Luckily, nothing happened. The message was clear: the world is united against such actions.
The staff of Charlie Hebdo continued with publication, issuing 7.95 million different copies of their following issue in six different languages. To compare, the magazine usually prints only 60,000 French-only editions.
The following issue, to the left, had a cover that become increasingly controversial in the following days. Local news stations in America refused to show the cover completely, which pictures a satirical Muhammad, in fear of igniting religious backlash. Even though a tragedy had occurred, resulting in Charlie Hebdo losing the lives of several of their cartoonists, the magazine immediately responded with a message conveying the idea that they wouldn’t stop their satirical cartoons.
The same style of controversial cartoons that had resulted in the attacks to begin with ended up revising their message. Je Suis Charlie managed to capture the news for weeks while French protests continued and demonstrations went on around the world.
But today, January 7th, 2016, marks the year anniversary of the horrible attacks. Since, six more attacks and several attempts have slammed into France. This last year has definitely been a heartbreaking one for France.
On February 3rd, 2015, three military men, who were guarding a Jewish community center in Nice were attacked and injured by Moussa Coulibaly.
On April 19th, 2015, an unsuccessful attack against two churches led to the death of one woman by an Algerian jihadist. He accidentally shot himself in the leg, putting an end to the attempt.
On June 26th, 2015 (a big day in history with the mass shooting in Tunsia and gay marriage being legalized in the United States), a beheading occurred in the Saint-Quentin-Fallavier attack. A man was decapitated and a van was rammed into gas cylinders at a factory in an attempt to cause an explosion.
On August 21st, 2015, the Thalys train attack occurred. The attempted mass shooting on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris led to four people getting injured, including the assailant who was subdued by passengers.
On the 13th and 14th of November, 2015, the largest terrorist attacks in French history occurred. The Paris Attacks, made up of multiple shootings and grenade attacks, targeted a music venue, sports stadium, several bars and restaurants. A football match had to be evacuated, an Eagles of Death Metal concert turned into a siege, and three separate suicide bombings happened over the course of around 40 minutes. At least 130 people were killed and 352 were injured. This was the final straw for France, and President Hollande named the attacks an “act of war”.
Today, January 7th, Charlie Hebdo has published their newest issue, an anniversary edition for the shootings that occurred a year ago.
This, per usual for the magazine, has been deemed controversial by many, including the Vatican, who claims the magazine cover is “disrespectful” towards all Faiths. Osservatore Romano has stated that the cartoon shows a sad paradox of the world that has become increasingly careful to be politically correct but does not respect believers’ faith.
But here’s the thing. If your faith leads you to shoot up a cartoon magazine’s office building because you feel offended due to a drawing, then your faith deserves no respect whatsoever.
Of course, not every religious person is an extremist. Not every religious man or woman — whether they be Vatican Catholics or Sunni Muslims — is an extremist or a far-right nutjob or a terrorist. But the picture in question, the new cover in memorial to the attacks that occurred a year ago, isn’t representing that audience. It isn’t directed towards those who moderately accept their personal faiths. It’s representing those who caused the attacks, not the men who initially did it themselves but the radical groups that have been plaguing modern history.
It’s not against people of faith, it’s against people of faith who cause violence for their faith.
Killed in the Charlie Hebdo Attacks
- Frédéric Boisseau, 42, building maintenance worker for Sodexo, killed in the lobby, first victim of the shooting
- Franck Brinsolaro, 49, Protection Service police officer assigned as a bodyguard for Charb
- Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, cartoonist
- Elsa Cayat, 54, psychoanalyst and columnist. The only woman killed in the shooting.
- Charb (Stéphane Charbonnier), 47, cartoonist, columnist, and editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo
- Philippe Honoré, 73, cartoonist
- Bernard Maris, 68, economist, editor, and columnist
- Ahmed Merabet, 42, police officer, shot in the head as he lay wounded on the ground outside.
- Mustapha Ourrad, 60, copy editor
- Michel Renaud, 69, travel writing organizer
- Tignous (Bernard Verlhac), 57, cartoonist
- Georges Wolinski, 80, cartoonist
- Sabin, Lamiat (8 January 2015). “Charlie Hebdo: What do we know about suspects Said and Cherif Kouachi who allegedly shot 12 people dead”. The Independent (London).
- “French terror suspect linked to al-Qaeda in Yemen”. USA Today. 9 January 2015.
- John Lichfield (19 January 2015). “The trauma that helped create Charlie Hebdo killers”. The New Zealand Herald.
- “Thousands rally in Paris after Charlie Hebdo shooting: ‘No words can express our anger’”. Toronto Star.“We are at war with terrorism not Islam, says French PM”.
- Mosques fire bombed and pelted with pig heads in aftermath of Paris terror attacks”. 13 January 2015.
- Charlie Hebdo: world leaders’ reactions to terror attack, The Daily Telegraph, 7 January 2015
- Bloomberg Photos (7 January 2015). “The Bold Charlie Hebdo Covers the Satirical Magazine Was Not Afraid to Run”. Bloomberg.
- Catherine Taibi (7 January 2015). “These Are The Charlie Hebdo Cartoons That Terrorists Thought Were Worth Killing Over”. The Huffington Post.