Three gunmen stormed the offices of a French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killing twelve and injuring five more. Those dead include the editor and the editor-in-chief of the magazine as well as other editorial staff during an editorial meeting. The gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar,” and other Islamist slogans claiming they had attacked the paper to avenge the Prophet Muhammad. The paper had published cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, which is very offensive to Muslims. The assassinations included two police officers.
The men escaped shooting their way through police patrols and hijacking a car. One of the men later turned himself in to police. A massive manhunt is under way for the two remaining terrorists who appear to have links to Al Qaeda in Yemen. They were apparently well trained, based on their abilities demonstrated during the attack.
One of the men had been convicted in a French court in 2008 of trying to travel to Iraq to fight “the American opposition,” he told the court. He had attended classes of a preacher and jihadi recruiter who was convicted of running a terrorist recruitment ring.
The attack has given new life to France’s anti-immigrant group’s agenda. Some political leaders called for France to renounce anything related to fundamental Islam. Muslim leaders also denounced the attack, and spontaneous protests throughout France expressed solidarity.
George Freidman of Stratfor wrote that the attack “has the potential to upset relations between European states and their Muslim citizenries. The strategic intent behind such attacks is precisely to sow this kind of crisis, as well as to influence French policy and recruit more jihadists. Even though Islamist extremism is, at its core, an intra-Muslim conflict, such incidents will draw in non-Muslims, exacerbating matters.
“At the root of this problem is the extreme discomfort many Muslims have with free expression, although this attitude is not universal. The person of the Prophet Mohammed is all the more sensitive because the traditional view is that he cannot be depicted pictorially, let alone in a satirical manner.”
Extremists hope that a crackdown on Muslim communities in Europe will generate more jihadists while curtailing or at least intimidating freedom of speech. Religious fundamentalism is increasingly viewed as the problem, which needs to be rooted out. Eventually anyone labeled as a religious extremist, whether they actually are or not, will have their liberties prescribed.
“The condition of things in the world shows that troublous times are right upon us. The daily papers are full of indications of a terrible conflict in the near future. Bold robberies are of frequent occurrence. Strikes are common. Thefts and murders are committed on every hand. Men possessed of demons are taking the lives of men, women, and little children. Men have become infatuated with vice, and every species of evil prevails.” Testimonies for the Church, vol. 9, page 11.