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The Paris Atrocities of January 2015 - and a Message of Hope for the World

Updated on August 22, 2015
Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Alun is a freethinking moderate on political and philosophical issues of general interest; some of his views can be found in his articles.

Yours Truly
Yours Truly


In Paris on Wednesday 7th January 2015, two gunmen forced their way into the offices of a French satirical magazine 'Charlie Hebdo' and shot dead nine members of staff, including the editor Stephane Charbonnier and seven other journalists. They also killed Charbonnier's police bodyguard, and another man who happened to be visiting at the time. After leaving the building they murdered a policeman in the street, before making their escape in a hijacked car.

Then on Thursday 8th January, in an apparently unrelated incident, a jogger was injured and a policewoman was shot dead by another gunman.

But on Friday 9th January it emerged that these two incidents were in fact, connected, when the perpetrator of the second shootings entered a Jewish kosher supermarket in a district of Paris called Porte de Vincennes, and murdered four of the customers and employees he found there. He took others hostage. Whilst in the Hypercacher supermarket it became clear he had been in phone conversation with the two men responsible for the magazine attack, and that all of these different atrocities had been planned and coordinated.

Three days of violent terror came to a bloody end later that same Friday when the perpetrators of the 'Charlie Hebdo' attack were discovered in a small town north of Paris, called Dammartin-en-Goële. After several hours holed up in a printworks, they came out guns blazing, and were promptly shot by police. The gunman in the kosher supermarket atrocity was killed soon afterwards when police stormed the building.

In total 17 innocent people - journalists and support staff, Jewish civilians and police officers - had been killed, and France reeled from these assaults on civil liberties and a religious community. The gunmen were found to have been radical Islamists who claimed allegiance variously to the terrorist organisations Al Qaeda and ISIS.

The significance for democracy of these attacks and the background to the events of Paris 2015 will be briefly discussed next. But this article is not really about the details or motivations behind the terrorist attrocities. It is about what happened afterwards ...

The grieving mother of one victim of 7th January - the policeman who was murdered in a Parisian street, and a poignant reminder of the indiscriminate nature of terrorism. The policeman was Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim
The grieving mother of one victim of 7th January - the policeman who was murdered in a Parisian street, and a poignant reminder of the indiscriminate nature of terrorism. The policeman was Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim | Source

The Sense of Shock

The events in Paris shocked people throughout France, Europe and all of the free world. In some respects the events were as shocking or more than other atrocities which killed even more people. The attacks on New York and Washington in 2001 were truly evil, but may have been seen at least by those who supported them as political terrorism in response to American involvement in the Middle East. The attacks in London, England in 2005 on the transport system may have been seen in the same way - as political terrorism. Even though the victims of both atrocities were civilian.

But Paris in January 2015 was different. There was no way those attacks could be described as political, motivated by struggles in a far off part of the world. They struck at the fundamental core values of democracy. 'Charlie Hebdo' was an attack on the right to free speech and free expression. The Hypercacher supermarket was an assault on the right to belong to a religious faith.

'Charlie Hebdo'

'Charlie Hebdo' is an irreverent, satirical magazine. It has been described as secularist and left wing. It has regularly poked fun at far right politicians and also at the religion of Islam, but it has also attacked other world religions including Catholism (the dominant faith in France.) Indeed, as far as religion is concerned, the target of most critical articles has been Catholism. And significantly both Judaism and the State of Israel have also been ridiculed in the past.

But of course it is the irreverent attitude towards Islam which has provoked most controversy, and particularly some very derogatory cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. Any printing of images of Muhammad is considered offensive by some Muslims, let alone the grotesque caricatures of satirical cartoons.

In some countries such cartoons are banned, whilst in others including the UK, national papers as well as the BBC have rarely shown such images in the recent past - ostenibly to avoid causing unnecessary offence. That is laudable, but it usually isn't the honest reason.The honest reason is the fear of extremist attacks by those who cannot tolerate any perceived offence to their religion.

'Charlie Hebdo' had not shown any such restraint, and was unsuccessfully sued in 2006 over the publication of cartoons of Muhammad. Then in 2011, militant Islamists firebombed the magazine's headquarters - the worst attack up until the events of 7th January 2015.

France in the 21st Century

France today has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, the legacy in part of immigration from former colonies of France in North Africa, from Algeria and Morocco and Tunisia. More than 5 million Muslims currently live in France. Many live in underpriveliged areas and have low incomes and limited job opportunities. Not only does France have a large Muslim population. It also has the largest Jewish population in Europe.

Although integration and tolerance is reputed to be very high in France as compared to some other countries, there is a level of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic sentiment, and growing support for strict immigration controls and for extreme right wing politicians who call for such controls.

Against this volatile backdrop, French political tradition has fully embraced the values of secularism. Religion and state affairs are kept separate. Whilst everyone is free to pursue their own religious beliefs, these not allowed to be imposed on to the rights of others and on political decision making.There are restrictions in the French media to prevent offences such as defamation, but the emphasis of French law is to enshrine freedom of expression and speech. Notably in this regard, the crime of blasphemy was abolished in 1881. As a result, satirical publications are at liberty to criticise and to ridicule anything they like, including religious beliefs and religious figures.

Candlelit demonstration during the night of the first murders
Candlelit demonstration during the night of the first murders | Source
Tributes paid, including a collection of pens and pencils - the journalist's tools, and a heart shaped message from a British Muslim
Tributes paid, including a collection of pens and pencils - the journalist's tools, and a heart shaped message from a British Muslim | Source

What has Happened in the Aftermath of the Atrocities?

The preliminary sections of this article have briefly discussed the nature of the atrocities in Paris as an attack on freedom of expression and religious harmony, and they have also given a background to the elements of French political life and satirical writings of 'Charlie Hebdo' which contributed to this volatile mix.

The rest of this article is different. The crimes generated a ground swell of opinion and a backlash against the terrorists of quite unprecedented scale, at least since 9/11. As a result, a message of hope was derived from the attitudes of the people, the politicians and media in the aftermath of the atrocities. What has happened?

1) On the evening of the 7th January killings, more than 100,000 came on to the streets of Paris and many other cities in France to demonstrate. Some were already carrying improvised 'Je suis Charlie' placards - the slogan which came to represent solidarity with the murdered journalists.

2) And many more thousands came out in cities across the world in support of France. In Tokyo, in Berlin, in Sydney, Buenos Aires and Barcelona, in Stockholm, Montreal and New York, and in countries too numerous to mention.

3) Some Islamists and some Islamic groups defended the terrorism, but the leaders of the Arab world, in the nations of Afghanistan and Algeria, Egypt and Pakistan, Jordan, Lebanon and even Syria, Iran and the Palestinian State, sent messages of condolence and condemnation of the attacks. So did many others, including many spiritual leaders. Some, it must be said, do not exactly allow freedom of speech in their own countries, but all condemned the acts of terrorism.

4) Remarkable images were included on the CBSNews website of protests in support of free speech in Ankara and in Beirut. And most of all in Ramallah in the West Bank, where a young Palestinian boy held a placard saying 'I am Charlie' .

5) A lot of publications in other countries chose to print 'Charlie Hebdo' cartoons. The reason was not to cause offence, but as an act of defiance against the terrorists, and to inform by illustrating the images which had motivated the attacks. The BBC, which previously had issued guidelines against all depictions of Muhammad, showed him on a 'Charlie Hebdo' cover and announced that they were reviewing their guidelines.

6) Remarkably, an Egyptian independent newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm featured cartoons dedicated to 'Charlie Hebdo', though not of course including depictions of Muhammad. Their website did also carry some cartoons from the French magazine.

Crowds thousands strong thronged the streets of Paris on 11th January 2015
Crowds thousands strong thronged the streets of Paris on 11th January 2015 | Source
The French flag flies in the Place de la République on Sunday 11th January 2015
The French flag flies in the Place de la République on Sunday 11th January 2015 | Source

The Rally on 11th January

On Sunday 11th January, a major gathering was organised in Paris. The author of this artcle could only watch the unfolding events on television in the UK. But with each passing minute, each image, and each interview, it was clear that something special was unfolding:

1) An estimated 1.5 million people attended the rally in Paris, not with political slogans but with messages of liberty and solidarity. It was the largest ever gathering in the history of France - even larger than on Liberation Day in World War Two. About 2 million more demonstrated and marched in other rallies around the nation in cities such as Lyon, Bordeaux and Marseilles.

2) And as on previous days other nations also showed support. In my country - the UK - national monuments and buildings in London such as Tower Bridge and the London Eye, were lit up in the three colours of the French flag - the Tricolore - as was the National gallery and the fountains in Trafalgar Square where a large rally was held.

3) The leaders of 41 nations walked together in Paris, arms linked. Included among them were Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian authority. Also present were families of the victims, and surviving journalists from 'Charlie Hebdo'.

4) The presidents of Mali and Niger were also present. Mali and Niger are among the poorest countries in the world. Both are overwhelmingly Muslim, and Mali has been the target in recent years of Al Qaeda sponsored attacks. However, despite immense obstacles both countries have been determined for many years to be both secular and democratic in their politics, and tolerant in their faiths.

5) Flags of all nations in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Americas were carried by the people in the crowd, many of which may surprise. The flags of Ukraine and Brazil, Turkey, Italy, and the Republic of the Congo were waved. Also present was the flag of Afghanistan, the Syrian revolutionary forces and the flag of the Berber people of North Africa. Israeli and Palestinian flags flew next to each other.

6) A police marksman on guard on top of one of the buildings was regularly cheered by the people in the street, and in return regularly waved back. And police vans were cheered as they passed through the crowd - support which is not always granted to the security services in France. The police of course were also victims that week.

7) As well as placards, people carried pens and pencils - a symbol of the power of the pen against weapons of violence. A Muslim woman was interviewed holding such a pen - she was no fan of that magazine, but was condemnatory of violence against the journalists and defiant in support of French unity. There were indeed too many incidents worthy of mention, both at the Parisian rally and around the world - as an amateur writer who can only write in my spare time, it would probably have taken me several weeks to detail them all.

A Jew is interviewed on camera on Sunday 11th January 2015. The man with the arm around his shoulder is his Muslim friend
A Jew is interviewed on camera on Sunday 11th January 2015. The man with the arm around his shoulder is his Muslim friend | Source

Judaism and Islam

The problems between the religions of Judaism and Islam are ancient and well documented. In the Middle East those problems may sometimes seem irreconcilable, but Jews and Muslims can live in harmony elsewhere.

Such harmony is rarely exhibited as overtly as in the days which passed between Wednesday 7th and Sunday 11th January 2015, and whilst I have condemned Islamic terrorism, I have also been at pains in this article to try to point out the warmth which was shown between members of the two faiths:

1) On Wednesday a Muslim policeman of Tunisian origin was one of those shot dead near the offices of 'Charlie Hebdo'. Muslims were victims too. And on Friday, several of the customers at the Jewish kosher supermarket were hidden from the gunman by one of the supermarket employees. That employee was Lassana Bathily, a Muslim originally from Mali. He is now being regarded as a hero throughout France.

2) On Sunday as the politicians marched, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbasboth walked within metres of each other.

3) Television coverage of the rallies on Sunday showed a Jewish man clutching a white rose. It had been given to him by a Muslim man. And two friends from the same French town were shown - their arms around each other. One man was Jewish and one was Muslim, and each held a placard declaring their support for the other.

These were just a few of the stories - stories which showed how both Jews and Muslims had been blighted by the week's events. And how both could live together.

World leaders led by François Hollande of France walk with linked arms. Most notably, on the left is the Israeli prime minister. On the right is the Palestinian president
World leaders led by François Hollande of France walk with linked arms. Most notably, on the left is the Israeli prime minister. On the right is the Palestinian president | Source

The Successes and Failures of the Terrorists

What are the aims of acts of terrorism, and were those aims achieved by that week's events? The obvious primary role of terrorism is to strike terror into people. The clue is in the name. To that extent the gunmen may have succeeded, because people in France and elsewhere in the free world were undoubtedly shocked and indeed terrified by these attacks.

But the raison d'etre for inducing terror is to achieve change. In this instance it was to force people to adopt alien values into our culture and to restrict our basic freedoms of expression - by far the most fundamental of which is free speech. To that end, the terrorists undoubtedly failed, because it seems greater expressions of Judeo-Islamic friendship were shown than ever before, and greater calls for the right to freedom of expression were made than ever before. In my country, commentators including politicians argued more vociferously than ever that at least one cartoon featured in 'Charlie Hebdo' should be published in all national papers and shown on the BBC; not perhaps the most grotesque, and not to cause offence, but to demonstrate a collective unwillingness to submit to terrorism. Supremacy in democracies of basic liberties over the intolerances of groups within society was asserted categorically.

And 'Charlie Hebdo' - the satirical magazine which was virtually unknown outside of France - achieved global publicity and support, including from many who might have found their articles grossly offensive, but who defended their right to publish them. Following their killing spree, one of the gunmen had yelled 'We have killed 'Charlie Hebdo!' . Well - 60,000 copies was the magazine's normal weekly print run. In the week following the atrocities, it was decided that 3,000,000 copies of the next edition would be published.

The Author's Thoughts on 'Charlie Hebdo', Islam and Religion

I have never read 'Charlie Hebdo'. I have an open mind on its philosophy but from what I have heard of it I suspect I would not like it, because I see no reason to cause offence unnecessarily. However, I also believe that there is no human right to be more cherished than the rights to free speech and expression.

The only restrictions on free speech should concern national security issues, incitement to violence, and defamation. Causing offence should not result in a restriction on free speech.

I am neither Jewish nor Muslim, nor indeed of any other religion. But I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with people practising their faith, as long as there is no attempt to impose that faith on others.


I have never before asked for my articles to be shared in other media, but if you feel this article merits a wider audience, then please do share - I ask because the message of Paris on the 11th January 1015 should be heard across the world.

The Author's Thoughts on the Events of the Week

The murders in Paris on Wednesday 7th, Thursday 8th and on Friday 9th January represented the bloodiest attack on French soil since 1961, and the most traumatic shock experienced by that nation in many years.

Absolutely remarkably, by the end of the day on Sunday 11th January, a week of great trauma and shock had become a celebration of solidarity and togetherness, with people singing and cheering politicians and policemen, Muslims hugging Jews and people from all over the world expressing solidarity for basic democratic values. An almost carnival-like atmosphere took over.

Could it make a long term difference? Depressingly, perhaps not. The world goes on and people often have short memories. Courage may fail, and politicians will return to concentrating on attacking opposition parties rather than the trueist threats to our way of life. Jews and Muslims will fight in the Middle East. And apologists will once again find excuses for abominable acts. Edmund Burke once said:

'The Only Thing Necessary for the Triumph of Evil is that Good Men Do Nothing'

The 'good men' and women who demonstrated in defence of the freedom of the press and the basic rights of people in France, need to continue to do something instead of nothing and have to stick to the values and philosophies which came to the fore in the aftermath of the atrocities. If they don't, then the atrocities will surely be repeated.

Finally, in view of the desire of the terrorists to suppress freedom of expression, it was fitting that the march route on Sunday 11th January passed along the Boulevard Voltaire. One of the most powerful quotes attributed to Voltaire on the subject of free speech has never carried as much weight as it did during this week:

'I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.'

Rubbing out a terrorist with a drawing. A nice touch from cartoonist Gary Varvel
Rubbing out a terrorist with a drawing. A nice touch from cartoonist Gary Varvel | Source


Please feel free to quote limited text from this article on condition that an active link back to this page is included

This article has been published on Wednesday 14th of January 2015.

One week ago terrorists killed people just because they were Jewish. And other terrorists attempted to stifle free speech, and the freedom to publish a cartoon.

By the end of the week, Jews and Muslims were embracing each other in the streets of Paris. And today 'Charlie Hebdo' is once again being published with its largest print run ever. On the front cover is a cartoon of a weeping Muhammad.

I wonder what will next week bring?

© 2015 Greensleeves Hubs

I'd Love to Hear Your Comments. Thanks, Alun

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    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      5 years ago from Essex, UK

      sgbrown; Thanks Sheila. Although I wouldn't agree with all you say about Barack Obama, certainly it was a mistake for him not to go to Paris in the aftermath of that atrocity.

      I guess although ISIS will be defeated eventually, peace will only come to that region of the world when the various religious and political factions learn the lessons that most western democracies learned a long time ago - that stability and peace is only possible when tolerance and respect exists for the viewpoints of others. Tolerance for any other peoples' opinions is something that ISIS singularly lacks. Much appreciate your visit, Alun

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      This is such a comprehensive and much needed article! I agree with many here that the fact that our president not being in Paris with the other world leaders was a sign of what a poor representative of our nation, he is. I am truly ashamed of our president and can only pray that we can elect someone who has integrity and backbone.

      Yet now, more atrocities have occurred in Paris. It is so sad that we must all be so vigilant and wonder what may happen next. I believe that is part of what the mad men want. Maybe some day we can rid the world of ISIS and their counterparts, but as soon as we do, I fear more will follow.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      5 years ago from Essex, UK

      old albion; Thanks a lot for your follow up comment, Graham. It's very much appreciated, and a sign that Paris, January 2015 remains in the mind 10 months on, just as Paris, November 2015 will remain in the mind. So it should.

      In January we saw an attack on people because of their religion (Judaism) and an attack on the most basic of our freedoms, the freedom of speech. In November we have seen a devastating attack on the entire culture of the West - peoples' lifestyles, restaurants, music venues.

      I have learned something about the philosophy of the people who perpetrate these attacks during research for another hub article, and quite simply, they cannot tolerate any viewpoint different to their own. Any culture different to their own has to be destroyed. There is no room for debate. So the only option is that they and their philosophy have to be defeated, and eventually they will be.

      It is tragic that the atrocities continue, and that Paris has suffered again. And this will happen again in Paris, London, New York, Madrid or somewhere else. But eventually that evil, intolerant culture will be defeated. Alun

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Alun. I revisit your excellent hub again today. 3 days after yet another and much larger atrocity in Paris. Why do these people insist on trying to enforce their way of life on others. They will not succeed. Thanks again for your absorbing hub.


    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      5 years ago from Essex, UK

      old albion; Thanks for your visit and your very nice comment Graham. It was an extraordinary week for France and for human values - both good and bad. 9 months on, there have predictably been plenty more atrocities across the world, but hopefully a few minds were altered for the good, by the events which followed the terrorist attacks in Paris. Alun

      pramodgokhale; Thank you for your further comment about progress in the development of Indian society.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      5 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Alun. A first class lesson for us all here. Insightful, informative, packed with facts and photos and also very brave. Well done indeed.


    • pramodgokhale profile image


      6 years ago from Pune( India)


      Thank you for reply to my comment.Positive side of British regime in India was that we had well oiled bureaucracy readily made available to run giant nation plus well functioning Railway and Post. these core products were part of life of grass root people to elite of India. Nation moves because of modern product.

      Nehru had in mind British democracy with Russian socialism , but this mixture was not sweet and feudal India and Indians could not swallow it.

      Feudalism do not vanish in year one or two but takes centuries.We know medieval Europe and later transformation into modern Europe.

      Philosophers and scientist had been prohibited to express against religion

      At present India is divided into tow class ,affluent and poor or deprived.Social mobility is on but will take more time.There are many areas where Russia and China failed but India succeed ,their discipline and command regime did not change mindset. Reforms can be generated not from the top but within community and in mind

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      Besarien; Thanks very much Besarien. Appreciated. This was the first news story (apart from the death of Neil Armstrong) to inspire an immediate Hubpage article from me. It was the positive aspects of the aftermath which motivated me. Of course in the months since January, there's been plenty more atrocities in the world. Nothing much changes, but hopefully some light was shined into the hearts of a few would-be activists and young extremists by the positive messages which came out of France in the week following the shootings.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      pramodgokhale; So sorry I did not respond to your second post on this hub earlier than this - a reply had been intended.

      Your perspective on British rule in India is interesting. No doubt the 'Empire' had both plus and minus points. It can never truly be right for one nation to subjugate the people of another part of the world, and much was done in the name of the British Empire which was shameful. But you do highlight the positive element of uniting India as a nation state, and hopefully peace, democracy and freedom of expression for all, will be an everlasting legacy of the values which India's leaders adopted and which the great majority of the people have embraced. One shudders to think what might have become of India as a geographical region if the nation had fragmented or if the people had not tolerated differences in culture.

      You also mention Scotland. Despite Britain's declining power since WW2, we remain a rich, successful country, and above all a nation which embraces free speech. It did seem sad to me that so many in Scotland would like to break up the long standing union, but there are historic, as well as political philosophical, reasons - the majority of Scots have consistently favoured the Labour Party, so it aggrieves some that so regularly they end up with a Conservative Government in London!

      But that is the nature of democracy. The Scottish people have the freedom to decide their future, and fortunately in my opinion, the majority decided last year to remain within Union.

      The UK is currently undergoing a national election campaign, and whatever the result, the vast majority will tolerate, accept and respect the result. To bring the conversation back to the subject of this hub, one hopes that the tolerance, acceptance and respect between different peoples shown in the aftermath of the atrocities in that other bastion of free speech - France - has some lasting effect.

    • Besarien profile image


      6 years ago from South Florida

      Very comprehensive article on the Paris atrocities, the aftermath, and related issues. I found your personal take on it all thoughtful and compelling. Voted up.

    • pramodgokhale profile image


      6 years ago from Pune( India)

      Sir, long back i commented on your another page in the praise of democracy.

      In India our challenge is to restore law and order and eliminating poverty and illiteracy.freedom is precious and every Indian knows it. Under British regime India became nation state or otherwise fragmented India would have been be a weak bloc or Balkans of Asia.

      Now India has 29 provinces , our federation is intact so we continue with functioning democracy.

      I was surprised when there was voting for Scotland separation from UK but it is history so England is intact.

      Unfortunately on the earth very few nations have democracy and freedom of expression. Our friend Russia has oppressed people under Putin but political compulsions and relations simply overlooked these events.


    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      pramodgokhale; Thank you pramod gokhale. India is certainly a shining example of how people in a country with so many potential obstacles now and in the past, (caste, creed and wealth differences) can live together more or less in harmony. I have expressed to you on another page of mine, my admiration for India's successful embracing of democracy, which has helped to keep the country so much more stable than many of its neighbours.

      Perhaps in India, some restraint in freedom of expression to avoid causing offence is necessary, though I would always hope any such restraint is self imposed by individuals rather than enforced by government legislation. Next to the right to peacefully elect or remove the people who govern us, freedom of speech is the most fundamental human right of all.

      I welcome your contribution pramod gokhale. Alun

    • pramodgokhale profile image


      6 years ago from Pune( India)


      Freedom of expression is a part of democratic system Sensitive issues and intolerant communities is a combination , so media should handle this issue carefully.

      Recently there was picture of Gandhi on beer bottle in US , and there was protest and company withdrew all that.

      Freedom of expression should not go astray and should not hurt sentiments of community.

      I am an Indian, we are plural nation with multi faith and tribes, multi lingual also but we avoid controversies for nation's unity. Diversified India won't not allow such undisciplined and free media , it will damage our co-existence and harmony.Unity in diversity is our pride

      What terrorist did , it is terrible and should be punished .


    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      sallybea; Thank you Sally. It is a sad fact that human life in our Western nations tends to attract greater attention than human life in Africa. To an extent that is understandable. Media access is much easier, and I think we can all recognise that we in Europe could be victims caught up in such terrorist attacks, whereas violence by Boko Haram in Africa is less likely to affect us. Also, in the case of Paris, the attack on 'Charlie Hebdo' was more than an attack on people, or a nation - it was seen as an attack on the most fundamental value of a democracy - free speech and expression. But I'm sure you're right that the huge street rallies and demonstration in defence of free speech helped extend media interest beyond the days of the attacks.

      Having said that, we should never forget that a human life is just as valuable whether it is English, American, Parisian, or African, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or atheist. Each individual tragedy is just as great.

      Very much appreciate the shares and tweet, Sally. Cheers.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      rebekahELLE; Thanks very much Rebekah. It's very true that Paris actually came out well from the events of last week. Yes, a handful of people adopted bloody tactics to try to impose their will on others. But millions demonstrated in protest against that handful, and to show support for free speech and unity between the different communities.

      It was, of course, that demonstration which insprired my thoughts and desire to write this hub, so it was important to express my own thoughts as well as a purely factual account of the events. Thank you so much for sharing it. Alun

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      6 years ago from Norfolk

      Excellent article Alun. Someone asked me the other day why so much fuss was made over these atrocities when in the same week 2000 Africans were slaughtered in Africa. They asked why the world watched this atrocity with so much horror while very little was said about those who died in Africa. Perhaps if the people in that country had taken to the streets in the same way as was done in France, the world would unite and we could drive these despicable people into the ground. I don't profess to know the answers to any of this, I can only feel horror for this act of terror and sadness for the poor people whose loved ones are no longer.

      Voted up, shared and tweeted

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      6 years ago from Tampa Bay

      Alun, thanks for taking time to write such a thorough and compassionate hub about the atrocities that took place in Paris. When I first heard about it, I was shocked, as many others. Having spent time in Paris with real Parisians, I understand they are a much more humane country of people than many give credit. Paris is full of immigrants of the Muslim faith, as well as many other nationalities. But they went to Paris in hopes of living freely and openly.

      I appreciate how you have included so many facts and responses to the violent events that took place, and most of all for your own opinion and openness to share your thoughts and feelings. I read and shared this when it was first published, but I wanted to come back and leave a comment. Well done, Alun.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      justom; As you know, I have worries about some beliefs in America which seem quite alien to many of us in the UK. Some of those beliefs are certainly most commonly identified with the extreme right, though others apply to a minority across the board - left and right.

      But I wouldn't want to go into those issues here for three reasons:

      Firstly, the spirit of unity in Paris is a lesson for all, and hopefully all will try to show more tolerance of others' points of views where differences exists.

      Secondly, although I come at some things from a very different perspective to Will, we have had a few nice exchanges of late, and he is showing restraint in continuing the Republican / Democrat debate here, which of course is not directly connected with the Paris atrocities.

      Thirdly, I'm quite sure that the majority of supporters of both sides of the political divide in America are decent and tolerant, and recognise certain common values - common values which the majority of Muslims, Jews, Frenchmen and all others also share, and which separate all of us from the kind of people who perpetrated those crimes.

      Cheers, and sorry again that the previous comment somehow got deleted.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      WillStarr; I can understand the analogies, even though the motivations may be different. I do believe they are a small minority, albeit a minority with an influence which far exceeds their numbers. And one only has to look at those parts of the world where they have taken power, (the Taliban in Afghanistan in the past and ISIS in parts of Iraq and Syria today) to understand the threat they pose. It seems astonishing to me that some young Muslims in the west, exposed as they are to the moderate values of free speech and democracy, nonetheless feel attracted to that kind of extremism, which puts their self belief that they are doing God's work above mere human concerns such as compassion and tolerance, values which most Muslims respect.

    • justom profile image


      6 years ago from 41042

      Thanks Alun, my 2 main points were the extreme right wing are what I consider obstructionists that are changing the whole concept of what this country was founded on and that sadly most of it is racially and greed motivated. All I have to say really~ Peace

    • WillStarr profile image


      6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I see radical Islam as the new Nazi Party, more than ready to employ savage brutality in their quest to rule the world in their own version of the Third Reich. I see the rest of Islam as the rest of the Germans living under the Nazis, and afraid to resist. And, like Neville Chamberlain, we are now learning that appeasing the New Nazis is both futile and fatal.

      There is no compromising with an absolutist regime like radical Islam. We must either defeat them or live and die under them. As one imam pointed out, Islam does not mean peace at all; Islam means submission.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      Suhail and my dog; Thanks so much. It is great to hear from you, particularly from a Muslim perspective, and highlighting that it is not just Western nations which are victims of this kind of terrorism.

      The events in Pakistan were truly horrific, a dreadful attack on children going to school. It was of course a major news story in the West, but as is so often the case, within a week or so it had gone from the headlines, and little has been reported since - certainly in the UK. But the heartache for the families of the victims doesn't go away that quickly.

      I can agree - all reasoning has gone from the sort of people who can carry out such attacks. They do not understand normal human social behaviour and concerns. If they cannot understand basic humanity, they will also not understand political arguments against their behaviour.

      The last point you make is very pertinent. Vigilance is the best way to thwart such actions, though I'm sure it may be even more difficult in a nation like Pakistan to spot potential terrorists, than it is here in the UK or in the USA or Canada. Your contribution is greatly appreciated Suhail.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      Ericdierker; Thanks very much. It was important to give a little background info to explain why the attacks happened, but of course it was the spirit displayed by Parisians, and sympathisers throughout France and across the world, which inspired the hub. You're right Eric. People do have to feel it personally. Otherwise, it becomes just another news story. Appreciated, Alun

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 

      6 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Awesome article!

      I liked your message of hope immensely and projected in a very positive manner.

      I could relate to the atrocity by "Islamic" terrorist. In mid December, Talibani terrorists struck a school in my country of origin killing 167 innocent angelic students. My people and I were torn from the core of our hearts. We have been shedding tears for them ever since then.

      The issue at hand is that we are seeing terrorists who have crossed all bounds of reasoning. They have no qualms in killing innocent children, women and men. On top of that, in my humble opinion, they have become mercenaries. No, I don't think it is doctrine any more. These terrorists can be bought after paying their masters a sum of money to do something that has a bigger meaning than what meets the eye. It could be destabilizing a country, a region, or creative a rift within a society.

      But I don't want to get into conspiracy theories. I do want to say is that each one of us, especially Muslims like me, have to be vigilant in order to detect any people showing negative sign in our community and to report them to law enforcement agency.

      Thanks again for sharing a wonderful hub.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      A great article Alun, you did a marvelous job of keeping the facts factual and yet pointing out the wrongness of the atrocities. You also did a good job of making it personal and until we all take it personal there will be not solutions.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      MsDora; Those are compassionate and civilised sentiments. Best wishes.

      bdegiulio: Thanks Bill. One day soon, I intend to learn more about Voltaire. He really was responsible for some of the very wisest sayings in history. I appreciate the share. Alun

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Hope next week brings reflection on the causes of the atrocities and a determination to respect people, their lives and their beliefs. Hope also that the unity between various groups increases instead of decreases.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Alun. A wonderful article. Voltaire's quote really sums it up nicely. I'll share this and forward.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      annart; Thank you very much for that, though having read some of your excellent articles in the past, I suspect you are being far too deprecating of your own hub. I shall take a look as soon as I can.

      I found myself watching the television coverage for several hours on the news channels. Halfway through I began to think about creating a forum discussion, but by the end I felt I had to write a full blown article, because so much of what was said and seen was so moving.

      No doubt many will be cynical about some of the leaders who were present, but one hopes that just some of the good thinking which went on in the streets of Paris will stay in their minds. If it leads to just a little more common ground and understanding between Israel and Palestine, then the deaths will not be totally in vain. Thanks so much, Alun

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      justom; this is slightly embarressing. You just posted an additional comment, and when I tried to approve it, a caption came up saying that 'something went wrong'. Now it seems that your comment has disappeared. I may contact HubPages to find out what went wrong, but feel free to write it again if you wish. I honestly did not wish to delete it.

      Your missing comment expressed frustration at the attitude of extreme right wingers, though not all Republicans. I know you finished by saying that you wouldn't take the issue of Republican / Democrat divisions any further in these comments, and I should say that I just received a really nice email from WillStarr expressing pretty much that same sentiment, saying he wouldn't respond here in the interests of avoiding conflict. But you can of course both comment again if you wish. The hub is after all, partly about free speech :)

      Because of the subject matter, if this hub receives many comments, I guess there may be a few strong opinions expressed, but after the events of Paris, hopefully all will at least be tolerant towards other points of view. Cheers.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Excellent, indeed. You have covered everything in this piece and put forward some valid points. I wanted to highlight the solidarity and the amazing reactions in my hub but you have done it much better; I salute you. I too found it exceptional to see the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers supporting the march together. Support indeed!

      Well done!


    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      justom; Thanks for your contribution. Whilst viewing from afar I believe I would be a 'Democrat' rather than a 'Republican' in American politics, it was clearly a mistake not to send a more high ranking official to Paris.

      I wonder about the ceremony you are referring to? Presumably it was the dedication of the museum? Will has posted a video. Not being an American, I wonder is that a different ceremony? By all means comment (Tom or Will).

      I would however, gently ask in the spirit of togetherness engendered by the Paris rally, that not too much attention is focused on Republican v Democrat animosities in this comment section. (If Jews and Muslims can hug, hopefully Democrats and Republicans can too? :) Cheers, Alun

    • WillStarr profile image


      6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

    • justom profile image


      6 years ago from 41042

      Great read Alun. It's all very complicated but I must ask right wing Will Starr where his buddies, Bush and Chaney were during the 9/11 memorial? Both were no shows and are war criminals that should be on trial for treason. Again, nice work Alun!

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      aesta1; Thanks very much aesta1. One certainly hopes it has a lasting impact - if not on the politicians, then at least on peoples' values, and the importance they place on basic human rights in the future. Alun

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Excellent take on this rather sensitive event. The march was a good demonstration of solidarity and somehow, it will have its impact. Killing to resolve an issue or to avenge an act is not acceptable.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile imageAUTHOR

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      6 years ago from Essex, UK

      WillStarr; Thank you very much Will. It was very striking that America was not represented by a higher ranking official. If at all possible at short notice, the President himself should definitely have been there. Apparently the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has admitted that it was a big mistake. Whatever the reason for the absence, it was wrong.

      Your contribution is very much appreciated Will. Cheers, Alun

    • WillStarr profile image


      6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      The glaring exception to the unity was the absence of a high-ranking American leader standing arm in arm with all the other world leaders. The Obama Administration regularly engages in verbal gymnastics to avoid using the term 'Islam' in connection with such atrocities, so they could hardly participate in a march denouncing radical Islamic terrorism when they won't even admit that it exists.

      Excellent article, Alun.


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