Here’s what I love about the French: They’ve long understood the dangers presented by radical Islam. French President Francois Hollande swiftly called the deadly Wednesday shooting at Paris’ Charlie Hebdo magazine “an act of exceptional barbarity,” without doubt a terrorist attack. There was no hedging. The Socialist leader didn’t engage in the sort of blather White House spokesman Josh Earnest offered on MSNBC shortly after the shootings. Earnest called the attack a “terrible act of violence,” but not necessarily terrorism.
He repeated the mantra that Islam is a “religion of peace.” Given that the shooters proclaimed “Allahu akbar” (God is great) and “We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad,” Earnest came across like an addict in denial.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations knew better than to throw out the “religion of peace” line. In its statement, CAIR condemned the shootings as an assault on free speech. CAIR supports free speech, “even speech that mocks faiths and religious figures.”
Back to Hollande, who understood how to react to the carnage. No hand-wringing about welcoming people of all faiths. No need to state the obvious — that most Muslims don’t go around killing cartoonists. No hesitation to call this rampage what it was.
The shootings of journalists in their office were meant to make critics hesitate before stating what they think and believe. When these masked murderers shot cartoonists and police officers, they were warning the world that you cannot criticize radical Islam without risking your very skin.
You could call one work of former Jyllands-Posten culture editor Flemming Rose’s Denmark’s version of Charlie Hebdo. In 2005, Rose ran 12 largely unflattering cartoons that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad.
A year later, after two imams circulated the cartoons — along with others not published in the Danish paper — violence erupted in the Middle East. In 2008, Danish police arrested three men for plotting to behead a cartoonist who depicted Muhammad wearing a bomb as a turban. To show their support for free speech, 17 Danish newspapers reprinted the 2005 cartoons.
For his trouble, Rose won a reputation for being an unreasonable man of questionable judgment. As he told me in 2008, some Europeans believe “you shouldn’t offend Muslims because they are so weak, they are so immature (and) they are such a different kind of minority that if you treat them like everybody else, they will go wild.” Rose was astonished that Islamists had no problem with the message, “If you say we are violent, we are going to kill you.”
Whatever you do, do not say that Islam is not a religion of peace.
In solidarity, media across the globe should be reproducing the work of slain cartoonists Stephane Charbonnier, Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac and Jean Cabut. Rose wrote in Politico on Wednesday, “In the immediate aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings, news publications in the United States and around the world were publishing blurred images of the Muhammad cartoons so as not to offend.” Now you know why these terrorists shot French journalists and their police protection.