Back in January of 2015 two brothers attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, murdering 12 people and injuring 11 more over cartoons of Mohammed that the satirical newspaper had published. Two days later, on the same day the brothers responsible for the Hebdo attack were killed in a shootout with police, another Islamic extremist killed a policeman and then attacked a kosher supermarket killing four Jewish people and taking several more hostage. He was also eventually killed by police.
More than five years later, a group of 14 people charged with providing aid and support to the killers is now taking place in France. The trial prompted Charlie Hebdo to republish the cartoons that originally led to them being targeted. They also published an explanation of their decision to republish these for the first time in five years:
These drawings are now part of history, and you can’t rewrite history, any more than you can erase it. This happened: it was the publication of these drawings, considered blasphemy by a number of Muslims, which was the motive for the January 7 massacre by assassins who wanted to, as they shouted on leaving from the premises of Charlie Hebdo , “avenge the Prophet”…
We have often been asked since January 2015 to produce other caricatures of Muhammad. We have always refused to do so, not because it is forbidden, the law allows us to do so, but because there was a need for a good reason to do it, a reason which has meaning and which brings something to the debate. Reproducing these caricatures this week of the opening of the January 2015 terrorist attacks seemed essential to us. All the reasons that could be opposed to us relate only to political or journalistic cowardice. Do we want to live in a country which prides itself on being a great free and modern democracy, and which, at the same time, gives up on asserting its deepest convictions? For our part, it is out of the question. Except to live in another country, another regime, another world.
Unfortunately, the response to the republication of the cartoons has been more threats. The newspaper’s HR person was forced to flee her home after specific, credible threats:
Marika Bret said her guards, who have protected her for almost five years, received the threats on 14 September…
Speaking to Le Point magazine, Ms Bret said: “I had 10 minutes to do my business and leave my home, 10 minutes to give up part of my existence… I won’t be coming home.”
She added that the threats started again with the start of the trial and the republication of the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed earlier this month.
“Since the start of the trial and with the republication of the cartoons, we have received all kinds of horrors, including threats from al-Qaeda and calls to finish the work of the [gunmen from the 2015 attack],” she said.
Of course we know now that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were just the start. Just 11 months later attacks in Paris including at the Bataclan theater would result in the murder of 130 people. These attacks have seemingly slid off the radar of many people in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic but the threats this month show this conflict isn’t over.
Here’s an interview with Bret about the incident on French television. You can turn on the closed captioning and use the auto-translate feature to follow the conversation:
Finally, this AP clip shows the reaction to the republication of the cartoons in Iran. This is from earlier this month. Unfortunately, auto-translate isn’t available.