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OPINION - Charlie Hebdo: An analysis

By Matthew Collins - Jan 27, 2015
OPINION - Charlie Hebdo: An analysis

On the 7th of January 2015, the house of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was attacked by Islamic fundamentalists in the French capital of Paris, resulting in the deaths of 12 individuals; but was it surprising? Let’s take a look...


In 2006, Charlie decided to republish Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten’s, controversial cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, which had sparked a wave of anger around the world.

In response to this move, the then French president, Jacques Chirac, was quoted in saying that anything that can hurt the convictions of someone else, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided. Freedom of expression should be exercised in a spirit of responsibility.” This was followed by him describing the cartoons as “provocative”.

Charlie Hebdo would then go on to counter this statement by making one of their own, declaring the “call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity and secular values for all.”

Even the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, was quoted in saying that "we need to learn to show mutual respect for each others' views and feelings as well as to develop our shared values," a quote which implied the need to balance freedom of speech with respect for others.

Furthermore, Britain’s then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, was quoted in saying that “the republication of these cartoons has been unnecessary, it has been insensitive, it has been disrespectful, and it has been wrong."


In 2011, Charlie Hebdo would go on to publish under the name ‘Charia’ Hebdo, an arguably deliberate attempt to mock Sharia, Islamic law. A day later, the house of Charlie was firebombed, causing much damage but injuring no one, before moving to another location in Paris.


In 2012 Charlie decided to publish a cartoon of the holy prophet Muhammad without a robe, despite warnings by the French police and the subsequent closing of French embassies, cultural centres and schools around the world, particularly in Muslim countries.

Furthermore the release of the cartoon, depicting Muhammad disrobed, took place only a week after an attack on a U.S. Embassy in Libya and in the wake of a controversial film titled “The Innocence of Muslims”, a film which sparked much discontent around the Muslim world.

In response to this act, the White House was quoted in stating that it did not “question the right of something like this to be published,” but that they simply questioned “the judgment behind the decision to publish it.”


After the attack on Charlie Hebdo, even a German newspaper, namely Hamburger Morgenpost, was a victim of arson after it republished Charlie Hebdo cartoons in the wake of the shooting.

Closing statements

According to many, an image which deeply offended the shooters was one whereby Muhammad was depicted as being beheaded, as well as a cartoon depicting Muhammad being shot at and riddled with bullets.

In a video showing the shooters returning to their vehicle (after the Charlie Hebdo incident) and opening fire on police, one of the men shouts loudly that Muhammad has been avenged; and in so doing, placing the reasons for the attack into an arguably simple explanation.


In concluding, it can be argued that Charlie Hebdo represents ethnocentric free-speech fundamentalism which indirectly instigates violence through apparent ignorance and disrespect towards cultural diversity; a diversity which is increasingly apparent in an age of globalisation.

Historically speaking, the magazine has demonstrated a lack of discernment in terms of the potential risks and consequences of their actions, not only to themselves but to countless other lives around the world.

In closing off, it is worth noting that the now-deceased chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, was once quoted in 2012 as having told the German newspaper, Der Spiegel, that a “drawing has never killed anyone.” He would later be shot on the 7th of January, 2015.  


Main image courtesy of: blog.clicktale.com