Discussion continues between governments and private citizens on how best to respond to the Charlie Hebdo, printing plant and Kosher hypermarket attacks, which France’s prime minister Manuel Valls said was unprecedented:

Never before has France had three attacks in three days.

A number of people online think that newspapers should have the guts to reprint the offensive Charlie Hebdo cartoons. One German newspaper, the Hamburger Morgenpost (Hamburg Morning Post), did that very thing on Thursday, January 8, 2015, with the headline:

This much freedom must be possible!

In the early hours of Sunday, January 11, their offices were firebombed. Fortunately, the damage did not prevent staff from continuing to work there.

Local and international support and sympathy for freedom of expression as well as the victims of the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly culminated in a historic afternoon in Paris and elsewhere in France.

A march from Place de la République to Place de la Nation on Sunday, January 11, was one of the largest gatherings in the city’s history. One and a half million people, including 44 heads of state and senior government officials from other countries, took part. (The only other time this number of people gathered in Paris was in 1998, when France won the World Cup.)

Two and a half million more people gathered in towns and cities throughout France. That 4 million people in total turned out is a first.

Oddly, the United States sent their ambassador to France to the demonstration. Eric Holder had met with representatives from the other governments, including Egypt and Turkey earlier in the day at a special security summit but did not take part in the march. The French expected better, especially since, on Wednesday, John Kerry repeated his lengthy condemnation of the terrorist attacks in perfect French.

The next day, Monday, the ‘I am Charlie’ mantra signifying unity splintered a bit. Whilst everyone agrees in principle that freedom of expression and stopping terrorism is vital, questions remain. How much freedom of expression should be allowed? How can we stop young people becoming involved in terrorism? Do people identify themselves by their nationality first or by their religion?

A number of Muslims have posted comments online saying that there are limits to freedom of expression and that an image of the prophet must never be shown.

One caller to RMC’s morning talk show said she identified as a Muslim first, which led to a rather vociferous exchange between her and the left-wing panel.

Afterward, the panel disagreed on the ways in which terrorism could be stopped. One said it was only through laws and government policies. Another, a teacher, said radicalisation had to be stopped at home and in school. This, too, got everyone raising their voices.

Meanwhile, in the UK on BBC1’s Sunday Politics, the debate focussed on surveillance powers. Should the public have fewer liberties, particularly online, so that terrorist cells can be better infiltrated?

Conservative MP David Davis, the guest at the end of the show, said that the government and security agencies currently have all the powers they need. He said that they need to work more intelligently with what they have.

I agree with David Davis. I hope this was the message at the security summit in Paris.

We do not need further restrictions on our freedoms, which are being eroded by the day. We do need more considered handling of and targeting of sensitive information relating to terror networks.

And, somehow, our young people need to move away from the idea that zealotry is a good thing.

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