There were a series of terrorist shootings in Paris, France from January seventh through the ninth. The weekly satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was attacked by two gunmen. Cherif and Said Kouachi entered the office on the seventh and killed twelve people, including the magazine’s editor Stéphane Charbonnier who had previously been threatened by Islamic extremists. On the eighth, a third gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, shot a police officer in the street. The next day Coulibaly took a person in a kosher grocery store hostage, the police stormed the building killing Coulibaly. Four Jewish men had been killed by Coulibaly before the police arrived. The Kouachi brothers were also killed by police on the ninth.
On Wednesday an al-Qaeda leader in Yeman claimed that they planned and financed the attack on Hebdo. The attack was instigated by Charlie Hebdo repeatedly printing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad. Several hadith prohibit depictions of the prophet, a tradition the majority of Muslims still uphold.
In a conversation with a peer this week the issue of free speech versus respecting others was the heart of the controversy. On one side of the argument Charlie Hebdo, legally, had every right to publish cartoons of Muhammad. The magazine is satirical and the editors have been known for their refusal to give in to pressure. But on the other side, Islam is the world’s second largest religion, and the vast majority are Sunni Muslims, who still uphold the religious law of not depicting Muhammad. While Hebdo had the right to publish those cartoons, it was disrespectful to a huge amount of people. Legal censorship should never occur, but censorship out of respect, like not using racial slurs, should occur.
Showing that they would not stand down, Charlie Hebdo published a depiction of Muhammad on the front cover of their issue on Wednesday. This has produced uproar in Muslim communities over the repeated disrespect. Other claim it is simply reckless.
Religion and politics aside, as American’s, especially our generation, we know firsthand how terrorist attacks can unite a nation. Charlie Hebdo printed more than 3 million copies of their first paper after the attack, a company that usually only sells 60,000 copies. That morning saw long lines in front of newspaper stands to buy the magazine. Many stands sold out early in the morning.