After Paris attacks, nothing has changed, really?

The China Post news staff

Today, we remember the victims of the Jan. 7, 2015 terrorist attacks in the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo and the following siege at a kosher supermarket and a printing facility that left 17 people dead. The first anniversary of the killings already started a few days ago with the unveiling of memorial plaques, eulogies and other public ceremonies, although we may feel that nothing has changed over the last 12 months: France is again on high alert in the wake of the November attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers who hit restaurants and bars, a concert hall and a major stadium, almost simultaneously and left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded. Police and soldiers are more than ever out in force protecting official buildings and religious sites and the situation is going to continue to fester for the months and years to come, while we are left wondering how to confront violence in the name of religion without further victimizing minorities or being accused of “Islamophobia.” After all, if there’s one message the cover of Charlie Hebdo’s anniversary edition seems to convey, it’s that nothing has changed. The French satirical weekly magazine, with a long history of mocking organized religion, released Wednesday a million copies of its special issue, featuring cartoons by some of those killed, new material by staff and messages of support, in a move that again hit a nerve for various religious leaders in its depiction of a murderous god with a Kalashnikov slung over his shoulder, accompanied by the (translated) text: “One year on: the assassin is still out there.” The question of free speech remains but it is a strange feeling to think that the newspaper would not have survived financially if the horrific event had not happened. In the days that followed the terrorist attack, millions rallied in France for free speech and posted the “Je Suis Charlie” statement online. One week later, some 7.5 million people bought the first post-attack issue, and 200,000 people signed up for a subscription to the magazine. But how many people still think that they are “Charlie?” It is difficult to know for sure, even though we feel that we might be living through the end of a certain era of no concessions to political correctness and bold anti-clerical humor. We might also be living through an unprecedented increase in attacks inspired by radical Islamic extremism that are taking place without any indication or connection with a global terrorist network, and with startling rates of success. Thousands of young people around the world, including many in the west, have begun to see the Islamic State as more than just another terrorist militia in the Middle East. A the same time, we have seen growing support for far-right parties and groups, who have left an increasing number of people in Western Europe wondering how to confront violence in the name of religion without further victimizing minorities or being accused of “Islamophobia.” On Jan. 10, another more public ceremony will take place at the Place de la République, the square in eastern Paris which attracted mass rallies in favor of free speech and democratic values after the attacks and has become an informal memorial. Now, the French magazine must consider whether it should take into account the feelings of other people in its satire if it wants live out of the darkness again.