After a terrorist attack on the offices of a French satirical magazine which left 10 cartoonists and writers dead, along with three police officers, vigils have been held across Europe.
Thousands of people honoured those who worked at Charlie Hebdo, and other journalists and comedians across the world who should have a right to laugh in the face of extremism and threats on free speech.
People took to the streets all over France, most notably Paris’s Place de la Republique, just a couple of miles from where the attack took place.
Other vigils were held in Berlin, Copenhagen and London’s Trafalgar Square, despite previously frosty relations between France and America (France refused to go to war with Iraq in 2003), posters saying, ‘Nous sommes Charlie Hebdo’ (‘We are all Charlie Hebdo’) were erected by the public at the French embassy in Washington DC.
Tributes were also paid on social media, using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie (‘I am Charlie’), which has been trending overnight.
Sadly, #KillAllMuslims has also been trending on Twitter, which isn’t only, well, racist, but goes against the policies of free speech. It’s not free if it’s helping to oppress someone. Almost hopefully, one of the main reasons it’s trending is that people are using it to tag up their complaints about what a ridiculous hashtag it is.
OK, yes, there were a few people being racist tools there, but if there’s any positive, it’s that there are so many people refusing to use what happened at Charlie Hebdo – exacted by extremists who are by no means representative of the majority of Muslims – against all Muslims. And how are they refusing? By laughing at it.
While experts say the attack might feed into the far-right movement in France that is already gaining pace – ‘This event will play into the [Front National’s] anti-immigration, anti-Islam agenda’ – and an explosion has been set off outside a French mosque, reports ITV, UKIP’s Nigel Farage has said the attack was the result of ‘a fifth column... holding our passports, that hate us.’ Which is a pretty gross double entendre.
He might mean ‘fifth column’ as in ‘a group fighting against us from within’, but he’ll also know that Islam follows five pillars. Also, for a Eurosceptic, he’s pretty happy about referring to the UK and France as ‘us’. So at least there’s that nugget of togetherness.
Seriously, though, the solidarity shown across the world – and the fact people are safe to point out that Charlie Hebdo was sometimes provocatively racist – indicates just how important free speech is to all of us.
The two suspects, brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi, are at large, believed to be hiding out in a housing estate in Reims. Their 18-year-old accomplice, Hamyd Mourad, surrendered to police after hearing his name on the news last night, reports The Independent.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.