By Martyn Turner
My first reaction to events in Paris yesterday, apart from sadness and shock, is that it is wrong to suddenly get especially worked up because a small group of extremist religious miscreants decided to kill off some European cartoonists, journalists and policemen. After all, the self same nuts decide every day to kill off many other substratas of society: men, women, children, goat-herders, traders, refugees, and anyone else that takes their fancy. They do not discriminate.
Very few can escape the wrath of their Kalashnikovs. Very few cannot cause offence to them by anything more than simply existing and not being one of them. And many of those horrors go by unnoticed by our media. And, of course, like the IRA before them, the terrorists of al-Qaeda and Islamic State are far more adept at killing their own “tribe” than killing others.
So in the same way that most victims of the IRA could be labelled “Catholic”, most victims of Islamic State are Muslim. But the attack in Paris is a bit deeper. It is an attack on the European way of life, European culture. How should we respond? Well, of course, in this way of life, this culture we don’t respond because that is the point of having a “culture” in the first place. “An eye for an eye” is the prerogative of others a bit farther east. With a few notable exceptions we don’t just slaughter people because we don’t agree with them. Except in world wars, of course.
To this particular and peculiar brand of Islamania, Charlie Hebdo committed the greatest crime. They fought extremism with laughter, satire and free speech. When I am in France,Charlie Hebdo is my weekly of choice. It is far livelier thanCanard Enchaîné and far less intimidating than Sine Hebdo (itself a breakaway from Charlie Hebdo). In France they take satire very seriously. They are devoutly anti-clerical in the broadest sense and have been for a century or so. The fight for the freedom of the press was fought against the church and against the political classes in France long ago and was won.
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