Reflections on the Charlie Hebdo attack one year on

One year ago on this very day brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi – on behalf of al-Qaida’s branch in the Arabian Peninsula – burst into Charlie Hebdo’s offices in eastern Paris and killed 12 people, including eight of the magazine’s staff.

The crime of the defiantly left-wing, anti-racist, secularist publication was to insult, ridicule and lampoon Islam in the same way it ridiculed every other religion over the years.

Despite this, in their anniversary edition they proudly showed God with a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, accompanied by the text “One year on: the assassin is still out there.” They will not be cowed and continue to show that the pen can be mightier than the sword. I commend them for this.

Sadly, across the West we have allowed ourselves to be cowed. From taking offence at everything under the sun- from sombreros and anti-Islamists to transphobes – to the politicians trying to stop controversial figures such as Donald Trump from speaking in the UK and the lamentable laws across the West which have slowly but surely allowed being offensive, or simply having a controversial opinion, to be criminalised.

Freedom of speech and expression is under threat.

It is a situation we have allowed to develop from late 1980s when left-wingers turned against their former comrade in arms Salman Rushdie after he had the temerity to insult Islam in his book the Satanic Verses. For just writing a book, he received Fatwas, death threats and was under police protection for years.

Today this still goes on. You only have to look at the murder of Theo Van Gogh for producing a film critical of Islam called Submission or the death threats the anti-Islamist Muslim Maajid Nawaz gets on a daily basis just for having the temerity to expose the despicable nature of Islamism.

We are allowing blasphemy laws to come in through the back door under the guise of political correctness and respecting religion. We stop people from having the freedom to say what they like about religion and other “touchy” subjects. In doing so, we are doing a deep disservice to the memory of those brave twelve people who were murdered for defending the right of everyone to freely speak and express themselves as they see fit.

If on this terrible anniversary, if #JeSuisCharlie is to mean anything; we must stop getting offended so easily and not let Islamists scare us into giving up the right of freedom of speech and expression. Otherwise they win. In honour of that great publication Charlie Hebdo, we must not let that happen.


Stephen Hoffman is the Parliamentary Liaison Officer for Conservatives for Liberty. He tweets at @thehoff102

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty

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