On January 7, two terrorists attacked the Paris offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 10 journalists and two police officers. Over the next two days, a female police officer and four Jewish civilians were killed as well.
The attack is believed to have been in retaliation for the controversial satire released by the magazine. Similar to the recent attack, in November 2011, the magazine was firebombed a day after it released a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad.
According to witnesses, the gunmen were shouting “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad” and “God is great” in Arabic.
Witnesses also reported that the two terrorists said to “tell the media that it is Al-Qaeda in Yemen,” referring to the magazine attack.
The French government deployed 10,000 soldiers across France in light of the other attacks directly after the magazine attack. An accomplice of the original two terrorists killed a policewoman the morning after the magazine attack. The following day, the same accomplice held and killed four Jewish hostages at a kosher supermarket, totaling the body count at 17.
“This brings the reality of modern-day French society to America,” French teacher Elena Rivas said. France is defined as a non-religious republic, separating religion from state. Secularism is a key aspect of French society.
“In France, religion is seen as an individual issue,” German teacher Felizitas Reby said. “You are not allowed to bring your religion into public offices, including schools.”
In fact, in 1994, the French government banned girls wearing headscarves, a signature part of Islam, from attending public schools. This secularism does not only apply to Islam. Religious symbols such as crosses and the Star of David are not allowed to be displayed in public places in order to maintain the secularism of the state.
Despite the French government’s efforts to maintain a society that is not defined by religion, France has become the center of attention because of radical religious demonstrations.
Millions of people took part in unity marches across France after the attack, paying respect to those killed and calling out against terrorism and extremism. Forty world leaders attended the event in Paris, although there was no United States representative.
The phrase “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”) has become a symbol of solidarity with the victims of the shooting. At the Golden Globe Awards on January 11, many actors showed support by displaying this phrase on paper and on their phones, including George Clooney, Helen Mirren, and Diane Kruger.
“We’ve been following the events in the classroom all week as they unfolded,” Rivas said. “We’ve read articles on the attack and watched an interview of one of the hostages at the supermarket.”
It is vital that MAST students remain informed on current issues, especially those that shed light on how vulnerable we are to terrorist attacks, as shown in the events that occurred in France.