Attack on Paris magazine: The ultimate form of press censorship

Yesterday’s deadly attack on the offices of a Paris magazine exposes not just the horrors of extreme religious fundamentalism but the paucity of moderate Islamic voices.

Attack on Paris magazine: The ultimate form of press censorship

It is also likely to lead to heightened Islamophobia in the West, particularly among far-right political parties.

It was France’s deadliest terror attack in at least two decades.

World leaders including President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the attack, but supporters of the militant Islamic State celebrated the murders as well-deserved revenge against France.

It is hard to disagree with Christophe DeLoire of Reporters Without Borders who declared the journalists’ murders as “the darkest day in the history of the French press”.

President François Hollande described the attack as “an act of exceptional barbarity” and a brutal attack on freedom of expression.

It also shows just how dangerous modern-day journalism has become. Since the early 1990s, more than 1,000 journalists have been murdered in the course of their work; 60 in the Middle East in 2014 alone.

Last November, the Islamic State beheaded four journalists in Iraq.

At the same time, ISIS released four videos purporting to show the beheading of US journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid workers Alan Henning and David Haines.

The killing of journalists is the ultimate form of censorship. Charlie Hebdo has been repeatedly threatened for its caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad.

Its offices were firebombed in 2011 after an issue featuring a caricature of Muhammad on its cover.

Nearly a year later, the magazine again published Muhammad caricatures, drawing condemnation from Muslims around the world.

While such caricatures may be understandably denounced as tasteless, crude, Islamophobic, and blasphemous to Muslims, they were not weapons of war.

Yet, just like the cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005, they have drawn a warlike response.

Tens of millions of Muslims around the world go about their daily business in peace and would never dream of using their holy book, the Quran, as an excuse to commit atrocities.

In all traditional interpretations of the Quran, Muslims are instructed to be tolerant towards all people. Terrorism is above all murder and murder is strictly forbidden in the Quran.

The tragedy of this latest attack is not just that it has taken the lives of 12 people but that it is bound to heighten tensions between the West and the Islamic world.

Distrust of all things Islam is already acute in France and is likely to give political traction to Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Front.

Anti-Islamism formed part of the electoral appeal of the party when it topped the polls in May in France’s European Parliament elections.

Ms Le Pen once compared Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation of France in the Second World War.

We need moderate Western voices as well as Islamic ones.

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