The death toll in the attack by two masked gunmen and their getaway driver on the staff of Charlie Hebdo presently stands at 12 including two policemen, although several of the survivors have life threatening injuries.
French police have identified the three individuals believed to be responsible. One 18-year old individual has given himself up at a police station after hearing his name in the media, although it is not clear at the time of writing whether he actually was the getaway driver. French police have named the gunmen as two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, and described them as “armed and dangerous”. Cherif Kouachi was sentenced in 2008 to three years in prison for belonging to a Paris-based group sending jihadist fighters to Iraq.
The BBC News website states that they were reported to shout “Allahu Akbar”. Agence France Press reports the police saying that after the killings the attackers shouted “we have avenged the Prophet”. The killings have been almost universally recognised as an attack on freedom of speech.
The Conservative Muslim Forum is shocked by this attack and condemns it unreservedly.
Yesterday our Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“What has happened in Paris is an appalling terrorist outrage and I know that everyone in Britain will want to stand with the French government and with the French people at this time. We must never allow the values that we hold dear, of democracy, of freedom of speech to be damaged by these terrorists. We must stand against what they have done and I feel huge sympathy for everyone in France, particularly for the families of those who have lost loved ones. We will stand with you at this time and I know that Chancellor Merkel will absolutely agree with me that everyone should combine to condemn completely this outrage and stand with the French people at this time.”
We share Mr Cameron’s sentiments entirely. A free society requires freedom of speech and a free press, even when the press publishes items that some may consider to be in bad taste or even blasphemous.
It was only some three weeks ago that we saw religion being used to justify the murder of innocent school children in Peshawar in Pakistan. Yesterday, assuming the above reports are correct, we saw religion being used to justify murder in Paris. Such unfounded claims seeking to justify murder in the name of Islam are indeed abominable and are a perverse distortion of a religion which preaches peace.
We call upon all French citizens to give the maximum possible support to the French police in apprehending these killers, and in foiling any other terrorist plots that may be being planned. We also hope that France will come together as one unified nation the way the UK did after the 7 July 2005 London bombings. We note that one of the two policemen who died doing their duty, Ahmed Merabet, was a French Muslim.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) died of natural causes nearly 1400 years ago. He needs no avenging. Satirical cartoons of him published by magazines like Charlie Hebdo have no power to damage his reputation; nor do the actions of those who commit murder in his name.