The World Rallies for Freedom of Speech

Bryan Rallet/Correspondent

France was hit by a string of deadly terror attacks taking place in Paris between Jan. 7 and Jan. 9 that led to the greatest public gathering since the Liberation of Paris in 1944.

On Jan. 7, two Islamic religious fanatics opened fire on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo before fleeing in a stolen car and leaving 12 dead, including Muslim police officer Ahmed Merabet. This barbaric act, which was later claimed by Al-Qaeda Yemen, was perpetrated because of the religious satirical cartoons Charlie Hebdo had been publishing.

After murdering a policewoman on Jan. 8, a third terrorist stormed a kosher supermarket on Jan. 9, killing four Jews before taking hostages. Simultaneously, authorities cornered the two initial terrorists and a hostage approximately 30 miles northeast of Paris. Eventually, security forces launched a synchronized assault against the two positions killing all three terrorists.

With an effect on the people of France comparable to that of the World Trade Center attacks, the Charlie Hebdo shooting symbolized an attack against democracy and everything it stands for. While the French do not necessarily stand behind the satirical content of Charlie Hebdo, they most definitely stand behind Lumière Philosopher Voltaire’s words in his Essay on Tolerance: “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too.”

Hundreds of artists commented on the event and signified their solidarity by producing more satirical drawings concerning the situation. More significantly, in another echo of the New York City events, the most important rally in French history was recorded on Jan. 11 as 4 million people filled the streets of France.

Many state officials including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Chief of State Mahmoud Abbas joined them. However, the absence of any U.S. senior elected official was noted.

Overall, these events demonstrated the unity of the free world, which was able to take a strong stance against violence and hatred while celebrating diversity, democracy, and freedom of speech in the three words: “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie” in English.