Democracy and Freedom of Speech: Attack at 'Charlie Hebdo', Paris; 'Je suis Charlie' Speeding around the World

The message #Je suis Charlie. Solidarité.  Many gathering for peaceful rallies carry this in their hands or raised as a placard
The message #Je suis Charlie. Solidarité. Many gathering for peaceful rallies carry this in their hands or raised as a placard | Source


You are in your office. You’re working on the next edition of your magazine, at your desk, deciding which of your ideas is the most dramatic, the most meaningful. It’s a mild, windy day, the window-panes are rattling. Then you hear a noise that doesn’t blend into the usual background. You start to feel uneasy. Before you can work it out, the door bursts open and so do the machine guns. For you and nine other colleagues, that’s the end of the story, the brutal finale to your life. Bodies wrenched from existence, left staring in disbelief at the ceiling, arms and legs flung, limp and bloodied, across the desks, to the floor, cut down in the split second of a thought of fleeing. Family and friends who are absent from that scene are not spared the brutality.

Wednesday 7th January 2015

Shock waves sent huge ripples from Rue Nicolas Appert, Paris, across Europe and beyond. It was in that road in central Paris, specifically in the offices of the satyrical magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’, that three terrorists entered with automatic weapons, shot 10 journalists and later 2 policemen. Other killings and injuries at different times and in other areas of the country took place, attributed to the same organisation.

Those who had entered the office then proceeded to travel North of Paris, only to back-track and eventually hole-up in a printing office of a small industrial town called Dan Martin. This action, apparently, was not planned; they were intercepted, had to run and chose those offices to end their days. It seems that they were prepared to die, were calm and injured no one in that building. The inevitable happened; they died and will be regarded as martyrs by their own supporters.

The Reason?

The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had created and published a cartoon making fun of Mohammad. They make fun of all religions, all persuasions, all walks of life, for their living. Attacks had been perpetrated before; they knew the risks. They continued to exercise their freedom of speech, putting forward views which make people think, which make people question their own and others’ values. Many satyrical magazines in Britain and in other countries throughout the world do the same. It is their democratic right, freedom of speech is fundamental to our society. Both these values are respected throughout the Western World. They are not designed to harm anyone; their words do not discriminate.

I find it sad, not to mention incredible, that people cannot discuss, persuade, influence and aid understanding, by talking, by writing, by explaining, by informing themselves of different beliefs, different philosophies and different walks of life. It is also sad that humour cannot be accepted as part of that discussion.

It is even more important than ever that education offer an umbrella of information and understanding.

Words not War

Consider these Carefully
Consider these Carefully | Source


Those shock waves are still pulsing through the ether. They are powerful and so is the reaction. Why? Because everyone has rallied together in support, in indignation, in determination that the power of words should overcome violence.

The first gathering took place in the evening of 7th January, in Place de la Republique, Paris, not far from the Charlie Hebdo offices. The crowd was silent and the Eiffel Tower switched off its lights for 5 minutes.

There have been rallies in many capitals and other cities of the world. One nation is being supported by other nations, unreservedly and whole-heartedly. As with many such events in the past and when natural disasters cause destruction, nations rally, people unite and the power of that unification has the ability to move, to change the world.

Solidarity in Paris

People silently hold up pens in Paris
People silently hold up pens in Paris | Source

Why Such Solidarity?

Why is it that we unite so solidly in the face of such things, even if we are far from where a tragedy happens?

There are two main reasons, I believe.

Firstly, we think, 'There but for the grace of God go I.' It could have been one of us or one of our family. Though the employees at the magazine's office knew they were at risk, those who lived at Dan Martin had no idea on one day that they would be involved in a hostage situation on the next. They lived in an ordinary place in a small country town.

It's the fact that we can indentify so well with what's happened that we feel outraged. It becomes an attack on us, a personal issue.

Secondly, the values of democracy and freedom of speech are at the core of our being. Threaten that and you are threatening our existence, our day-to-day lives, our beliefs.

However, we don't generally go out and kill someone because he or she doesn't have the same philosophy. We try to enter into reasoned discussion. We try to understand each other, try to listen and exchange views.

There is comfort in sharing grief, sharing problems, sharing reactions. There is strength in a group of like-minded people. There is power in that comfort, in that strength and in putting forward a common message - peacefully.

Friends in France

Like-minded Friends who all Support each other
Like-minded Friends who all Support each other | Source

My Friends

Friends, in a central village of France where we used to have a house, sent me the ‘Je suis Charlie’ message and asked me to pass it on by text. I did so, not only by text but also by email. I want to pass it on to you and maybe you will pass it on to others. The idea is to support the French, to show that solidarity works and to get the message back to Paris to show those affected that support is there, that we care, that they are not alone.

The underlying message, of course, is that we support all those around the world who have suffered and are still suffering from similar events and atrocities, at the same time uniting in our belief of freedom of speech.

I have French friends who live in a small village close to Dan Martin. Their daughter knew someone who was hiding in an outbuilding at those offices. He was not found by the gunmen but it brought the whole issue much closer to home. Imagine lying low, your heart pounding in your head, your nerves tingling, your breath short, thinking that the door could burst open at any time, followed by gunfire and eternal blackness. For him, the ending was life. Some were not so lucky.

All these friends are taking part in rallies on 11th January 2015, in Paris, in Bourges and others will be attending similar gatherings around the globe.

Tools of the Trade

Let's use them!
Let's use them! | Source

Mightier than the Gun

Ok, it’s a cliché that the pen is mightier than the sword. However, if you now look at the cartoons that have emerged from those offices and others, you will see the power of the pencil, the cartoonist’s ‘weapon’ of choice. Just like the pen, or the keyboard, it hits home with much more meaning and it harms none.

We, as writers, cartoonists, painters and artists in whatever form, have to use this power to make a difference. We have to show support for those who have been deprived of family members, friends, clever and devoted professionals, those who knew men and women who were doing their jobs.

We have to use our talent as writers to spread a message of peace, of co-operation, of understanding and well-being. That is the most important thing that we can do.

I would like to see more writers advocating a unified approach for tackling terrorism, for finding ways to take a peaceful path through this anger, hatred and futility.

Grasp the Baton

If you are willing, if you agree, please pass on this message to as many of your friends and associates as you can. It’s not just for the French. It’s for the world.

‘Je suis Charlie. Solidarity’. I am Charlie. Ich bin Charlie....... It works in whatever language you choose.


There is a danger that there will be a backlash against Muslims. Unfortunately this is always the case. We must remember that Islam is a peaceful religion, that it is only the fanatics who advocate such violence.

When it is they who receive the limelight, the headlines and have a seemingly regular, commonplace image in our society, it is easy to forget that they do not represent the religion they claim to fight for.

It is for that reason that education, discussion and understanding should remain paramount for fear of reprisals. Tolerance, peace and an exchange of words can do so much more.

Let's use the pen, the pencil, our thoughts, our words and our humanity to try to eliminate violence from our world. It might seem an impossible ideal but if we don't have ideals where do we go?

I Urge you to Look at these:

Further information, Reactions & Links:

Please have a look at these amazing cartoons created in response:

Information on the shooting and on those who died:

What do you Think?

Are you on the side of words or war?

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Comments 46 comments

annart profile image

annart 23 months ago from SW England Author

Thank you Jackie. I too wonder where this might end. It's frightening how things seem out of control.

Thank you for reading & for your input. Much appreciated.


Jackie Lynnley profile image

Jackie Lynnley 23 months ago from The Beautiful South

I thought this was a horrible thing to happen and I am sure the horrors like it are not over. This brings to mind something not as horrible but just as shocking about a 12 year old African American boy having his facebook acct locked just for questioning the president's love of this country. That is right here in our country! How much worse may it get?

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

How indeed, Audrey. I despair on a daily basis.

Always good to see you here. Thanks for visiting and commenting.


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 2 years ago from California

Violence, especially under the guise of any religious cloak is a terrible thing. How have we arrived here--

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Exactly, Catherine. The glorifying of death, of martyrdom, is the dangerous thing - there is no punishment for that, there is no deterrent. That's what makes it impossible to fight against. I don't know the answer any more than others do but I do know that writing can at least do something to fight against such philosophies. Sadly, counterattack with violence may be the only solution but even then.... Where will it all end?

Thank you so much for reading this and for your votes. Already the incident has faded but it will take a lot for most of us to forget it, which is a good thing.

I appreciate your support here, as always.


CatherineGiordano profile image

CatherineGiordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

Thank you for this piece. Voted up and H+. We should not let this fade from our memory, replaced by the latest atrocity. It's so difficult to know how to respond. If you say "words, then fight" then you are like the terrorists because they asked Charlie Hebdo to stop before they attacked. However, sometimes violence must be met with violence. The problem with this is that there will always be a new would-be martyr to commit more violence. The whole word and especially the Muslim world must condemn the violence.

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Hello, Graham! Good to see you and thanks for your kind comment.

Yes, sadly, the subtlety of the pen is not listened to. The sword is wielded all too quickly in anger.

Thanks for reading.


old albion profile image

old albion 2 years ago from Lancashire. England.

Hi Ann. A first class hub. It is said that the pen is mightier than the sword, I fear the pen is only used after the sword. The pen might well win the war, the sword creates the horrors of battle. Well done.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Rhonda: thank you so much for your contribution here. Your comment and those of others here is quite correct. Sadly, I fear that you're right too, as they do seem to have that 'comply or die' mentality.

I'm just speaking out for the power of the pen and, perhaps more, the power of solidarity which has impressed me so much in the last weeks.

We'll certainly have many more of these atrocities; Britain is gearing up for the 'certainty of an attack' apparently. I too pray that somehow justice will prevail.

Thanks for visiting and for your wise words.


Rhonda Lytle profile image

Rhonda Lytle 2 years ago from Deep in the heart of Dixie

While I greatly admire your message of peace, I don't think it can or will work. How can one convince any group that would commit such acts that peace can be attained? I hope I'm wrong, but history would suggest otherwise. A line has been drawn and crossed. It's not the first time. These kinds of "extremists" attacks are steadily rising and will continue to do so until such time as they are stopped through the exact kind of force they exert. I've met many a bully and talking has never worked with any of them. God help the world and all those in it for if the choices are comply or die, which seems to be the case with these kinds of perpetrators, we will stand against them or the world will fall to them. When freedom of speech is squashed, freedom of all kinds dies. Lastly, God bless you for your good heart and the courage you show writing about this at all.

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Theresa, for your wonderful comment. It is getting worse around the globe, I fear, and this latest episode has really had me feeling scared, worried and depressed. I have plenty to pull me up out of that depression, thank goodness, but that cloud seems to hang over us at the moment. Many wise things have been said in the comments. We shall have to hope that good will prevail in the end.

I do so appreciate your support and friendship. Where would we all be without our wonderful friends on HP?!

Thanks for the votes etc too. I really should do more on social media but can't bring myself to do it! Bit of a luddite I suppose!

Peace & hugs, dear friend,


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

Dear Ann, I arrived here via Nell sharing your most memorable opening paragraph with me on my hub. I do not know how I've missed this one brilliant piece you have written! You have certainly painted the picture vividly in our minds of that horrible day with your words. This world is changing rapidly and I am afraid we will not recognize it in just a few years, especially as relates to our freedoms. We can hope and pray that our words will make a difference. Will has made valid points and stated truths too in the area of truly understanding with what we are dealing, unfortunately. Brilliant writing, dearest friend. Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing. Peace and love

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Yes, Mel, I fear it's going to get very ugly indeed. We have no border control in Europe any more and that makes it easier for this sort of thing to happen. Britain at least has a bit of sea around it but the Channel Tunnel is there now to make it a little easier.

I greatly appreciate your visit, Mel, and thanks for your kind words.


Mel Carriere profile image

Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

As writers we have to be outraged about this assault on free speech. Violence only polarizes the two sides even more and leads to retribution followed by more violence. Here in the US we have very few Muslims, in Europe I imagine the reaction to the Charlie Hebdo attack is going to get very ugly and involve misguided and abominable actions by both sides. Great hub!

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Yes, Nell, it troubles me greatly that the world seems to be getting more violent instead of having people work through it by peaceful means.

Thank you for reading and commenting.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

Hi Ann, your opening paragraph totally brought it home to me what it must have been like. So terrifying. This was beyond belief, and horrifying. Those poor people, it seems to me that the world is getting more war like than becoming a peaceful forward thing place, what's the answer? I wish I knew, nell

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Alun: Thank you very much for your kind and thoughtful comments. Yes, the reaction says it all. We have more of this to come, of course, but I too hope that free speech will prevail.

Best wishes,


Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 2 years ago from Essex, UK

Hi Ann. Very glad to visit your page as promised, and to read another perspective on the Paris shootings. As you know from my article, I too was moved by everything that happened on 11th January, and by much of what happened before that. I can agree with so much of this.

I really like your opening paragraph which graphically expresses the brutality and the finality of a life-taking terrorist attack. How anyone can behave in such a way is almost beyond comprehension for most of us.

And also your personal story about friends in France - at any time we can all become directly affected by attacks such as this. Which makes your 'call to arms' (call to pens and pencils?) all the more valid. Pens and pencils are the best and yet most civilised tool we have to take the fight to men of violence, and the aftermath of Paris - and the print run of more than 3 million copies of 'Charlie Hebdo' - demonstrates that violence will not in the long run defeat free thought and free speech. Voted up. Best wishes, Alun

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Thanks, Jamie. I appreciate your support. Sadly, you're right, there is much to fear these days; you never know where it's coming from next. All we can do is make a difference by standing together.


jhamann profile image

jhamann 2 years ago from Reno NV

What a tragedy. There is so much to fear in the world today. I stand with you Ann. Jamie

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Flourish: Your comment disappeared on this one too, so apologies once again! Thanks for taking the time to read and reply. I always appreciate that.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Iris, I'm so sorry but your comment was approved and then disappeared. I have no idea what's going on at the moment. Two of my hubs seem to be jinxed but apparently it's not just me. It seems I have to continually refresh this page.

I appreciate you reading and commenting, nonetheless, so thank you!


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Mizbejabbers: Sorry to be late with this; I did actually reply to your comment but it disappeared and I had a few sudden glitches which I gather a few others experienced too. However, I'll try to reiterate my response:

I think I failed to get over my main message which was supposed to highlight the amazing solidarity after this attack and the power of the pen/pencil in what it achieves generally, informing, enlightening and putting forward opinions with freedom of speech. This was more specifically written with the cartoonists in mind. The power of the people working together is also something I wanted to highlight and praise. I certainly didn't want to come over as 'sweet'; my choice of words and my angle obviously weren't well conveyed.

I did, however, feel that I should mention that some peaceful Muslims do exist (I believe), though I agree they're probably a minority.

I fear that the pen won't win over such atrocities and attitudes. I do still believe in its power to reach most reasonably minded citizens and to convey that there are many who do not agree with the actions of terrorists. As writers, we should continue to use the tools that we have.

I admire all good journalists, those who sometimes go into danger to bring us the latest news and opinions. I admire clever satyrists and cartoonists who find innovative ways of putting across their points of view.

I am frightened by the escalation of the extremists' actions and by the fact that they seem incapable of reason or discussion. It's their way or nothing (i.e. death).

Thanks again for your valuable input. I greatly appreciate you reading and commenting, as always.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Apologies to Will and a couple of others whose comments seem to have disappeared. This is not down to me - something appears to be going wrong when I hit 'approve' so I'll try to get to the bottom of it. In the meantime I'm not touching any of the option buttons because I don't want anything else to disappear!! Feel free to re-submit your comment if it has gone. Thank you.


Dip Mtra profile image

Dip Mtra 2 years ago from World Citizen

Very well written indeed. Voted up.

MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 2 years ago

I am Charlie. I am a journalist.

At least I was until an injury forced me into a desk job as a legal editor, but that is still where my heart is. I agree wholeheartedly with Will Starr that nothing but complete submission will satisfy this force of evil. I believe your message of peace is sweet, but it will fall on deaf ears. The term “peaceful Muslim” is an oxymoron. Peaceful to them means complacency or accomplice. The complacent have a “let George do it attitude” and expect countries like ours to help them when they are overrun and dying in numbers. To be an accomplice means that some or most of these very same complacent people hide their violent relatives or friends in ISIS or Al Qaeda who are on the run. I have no sympathy for any of them who beg for our help because they do not police themselves and purge this criminal element themselves.

Christians in the United States police themselves because if they do not, the law will do it for them. We have militant Christian groups called such things as “Aryan Nation and Ku Klux Klan”, or the Westboro Baptist Church that pickets funerals of military personnel and harasses their families. Our federal government prosecutes these people when they cross the line, otherwise I believe we would have a similar problem with Christian militants. We will do the same to any Muslims who cross the line. I, for one, do not criticize the need for Guantanamo.

What these Muslims did to Charlie Hebdo employees is beyond reprehensible. It is pure evil. I am pleased to hear that Charlie is reopening today. I AM CHARLIE!

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Romanian: Yes, they will continue because if they don't then the terrorists have won. However, it won't be easy and this is probably not the last time they will suffer. I hope I'm wrong but that's what I fear.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

Romanian profile image

Romanian 2 years ago from Oradea, Romania

It was a terrrible blow for that small publication, but they will survive and will continue they're work.

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Yes, DDE, many people have responded because there is such a feeling of identifying with those involved and shock at such things happening. Though not on the scale of 9/11 it has struck the roots of society in a similar way. I just hope the violence can be contained in some measure; it's very scary.

Thanks for the visit and for your valued comments.


DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

This issue has drawn millions to the television screens and have also taken part in the march. A bad start to 2015 and sounds like more violence to look forward from those involved with Charlie Hebdo scenes.

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Yes, Frank, that's true. There are too many of us - that's why our NHS is so stretched at the moment. I thank you for your valued comment and I appreciate you passing on the message.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Eric, for your kind comment. Yes it is a controversial issue but I was more concerned in highlighting the peaceful reaction and the solidarity behind what's happened. It amazes me how people unite in adversity and when our core values are threatened.

I value your comments and greatly appreciate your visit.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Thank you, Ruby, for your lovely comment. Yes, deep down, I don't think we'll stop them but I believe the solidarity will win through - so much can be done when people pull together.

I always appreciate our visits to my hubs; thanks, too, for sharing.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

Peace seems so far to reach.. someone sad to me the other day.. the more we populate the earth.. the more we'll get on each other's nerves.. i dunno... but yes Ill pass this message on my friend

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Just a great handling of a very troubling issue. I think it is perfectly placed here with a community of writers. I am quite certain that these problems will not occur here as we are so heavily edited away from controversy. You did well addressing the issues without stepping on the toes of HP.

always exploring profile image

always exploring 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

I, like so many others have been watching this atrocity unfold. Your hub brought it closer to home. I am so glad you mentioned that all muslims are not terrorists, they are a hated people in the US by some who bunch them all up together. I clicked on the cartoons, amazing! I agree with Will, there's no stopping them. Awesome piece Ann. Shared on Twitter. Thank you...

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Will: I fear you are right and I've read the same and heard all sorts of worrying things. I guess I'm an optimist but probably naively so, sadly. I'll follow that link, thank you.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I hope I'm wrong, Ann.

I wish with all my heart that we could reason with the Islamists, but I fear that is not possible, because they believe just as passionately that they are supposed to swing the sword for Allah and conquer the Earth, no matter how many have to die. They do not believe in human tolerance. They believe only in absolute obedience to Allah and Islam as they see it.

This Imam is telling us that very thing, and it would behoove us to listen and accept that the Islamists cannot be appeased by anything other than absolute surrender and total conversion to Islam:

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

suzettenaples: Thank you so much; I appreciate your support.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Thank you for your comments, Will; I like the 'excellent'! I appreciate your input and I understand that point of view. It is a philosophy put forward by many. I just wish we could engage in discussion but I realise it's sometimes difficult when faced with extreme differences in beliefs.

I wanted to provoke thought and encourage tolerance on all sides. I hope at least that the might of the pen can do some good.


suzettenaples 2 years ago

Je suis Charlie.

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

Unfortunately, a large percentage of Muslims do not agree that Islam is a religion of Peace:

British Imam Anjem Choudary: "Islam Does Not Mean Peace, It Means Submission"

In the literal sense, he is correct:

The Meaning of Islam. Islam is derived from the Arabic root "Salema": peace, purity, submission and obedience. In the religious sense, Islam means submission to the will of God and obedience to His law.

I'm afraid that Islamists are the new Nazis, and like the Nazis, pacts, agreements, and appeasements are just excuses for Islamists to gain time and strength. Sooner or later, nations must rise up and defeat the Islamists the same way we defeated the Axis powers in overwhelming force and absolute determination to win, whatever the costs.

The Islamist believe only in submission, conversion, and world dominance. In this situation, the might of the pen is best employed to educate the west so that all understand what we are facing.

As always, an excellent and thought-provoking Hub, Ann

annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

Thank you, bill. Yes indeed. Let's hope the peace reaches a few more corners though I too fear the worst.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England Author

ArtDiva: Thank you for those kind and supportive words. Much appreciated.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

You and I just "spoke" about this, so I won't ramble on here. I love your message and you know I agree. Sharing this on this "peaceful" Sunday.


profile image

ArtDiva 2 years ago

There's a message of peace here, however so it will be received in an increasingly violent worldwide society, exercising the very freedom of expression taken away from those who also believed in that freedom. The power of words is far reaching even after death. You honor their fight.

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