The French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo, has published a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad on the cover of its first issue since the Islamic extremists killed 12 people at its offices. In the backdrop of the fact that Charlie Hebdo’s past caricatures of the prophet had prompted last week’s attacks, part of the worst terrorist rampage in France in decades, this is a brave show of defiance against the onslaught on freedom of the press. France saw its biggest demonstrations on Sunday as millions turned out to show unity and defend the freedom of expression.
The reaction is not confined to France as the slain journalists have become symbols of the world’s determination to defend democracy and free thought. The lesson from Paris is that we cannot shirk from asking uncomfortable questions about the interweaving of politics, society, and religion. By returning to the theme which enraged the Islamists, the weekly has robbed the extremists of their intention to silence their targets. If the world refuses to be intimidated, then the merchants of terror will be at a loss about their next step.
After all, even they cannot be unaware that each act of carnage exposes the radicals and their organisations, including the so-called sleeper cells, to progressively more intensive police surveillance with the result that their ranks will be gradually depleted. Notwithstanding their professed love for martyrdom in aid of a perverted cause, they cannot bank on an endless supply of gullible young men and women who are willing to die. Yet, if the terrorists do not respond to the weekly’s latest challenge, they will be losing face before their demented followers inside and outside France. The point which the psychos have missed is that if they choose to live in a country, they must willy-nilly accept its way of life, including the penchant for mocking people and faiths at will even if immigrants find the habit offensive. A nation has to live on its own terms.