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Millions march for Charlie Hebdo and freedom of speech

16 January 2015


"Not afraid": crowds pack the route of the march in Paris on Sunday;

"Not afraid": crowds pack the route of the march in Paris on Sunday;

ONE week after the staff of Charlie Hebdo were killed by Islamist terrorists in their Paris office, the magazine has published its next edition - with another cartoon of Muhammad on the cover.

The satirical magazine expanded its normal print run from 60,000 to three million, but all copies were sold out in minutes on Wednesday morning. Editors then decided to print millions more, to try to meet the huge demand.

The cover shows a weeping Muhammad holding a sign that reads: "Je suis Charlie", above the words "All is forgiven." The edition was put together by the surviving staff in the offices of the newspaper Libération, despite numerous offers of help by cartoonists and journalists from around the world.

Similar defiance in the face of three days of terror attacks was shown by millions of people, who joined demonstrations and marches across France over the weekend.

At the heart of the show of unity was a march of 1.5 million people in Paris. About 40 world leaders, including David Cameron, joined in at the request of the French President, Francois Hollande, to honour the 17 victims of the attacks, and to defend the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish any cartoons it wished.

Many among the crowds waved placards with the slogan "Je suis Charlie"; others brandished pencils and pens in support of the staff of the magazine. One young boy was photographed holding a sign that read: "Later I will be a journalist. I'm not afraid!"

Among the 12 killed in the attack were several of the most celebrated satirical cartoonists in France.

The Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, joined one of the many solidarity marches in Cannes, southern France, which had been arranged by the town's interfaith organisation. Dr Innes said that the people of France were, as was traditional, "manning the barricades" to defend their values in a time of crisis.

Thousands of soldiers and police officers have been sent to guard sensitive locations in France, including Jewish schools and public places, and the cabinet will hold crisis meetings. The country remains on its highest terror alert.

Funerals have been held in Israel for the four Jewish men killed after they were taken hostage in a Jewish delicatessen by a man who had earlier shot dead a policewoman and injured another man.

The gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, claimed to have timed his attacks with those of Saïd and Chérif Kouachi on Charlie Hebdo. The brothers were eventually cornered in an industrial estate on the outskirts of Paris, and died in a shoot-out with police on Friday.

Mr Coulibaly's partner, Hayat Boumeddiene, was named by the police as a suspect in the attacks, but has so far eluded capture. Reports suggest that she has left France and flown to the Middle East.

On Friday, Pope Francis sent a telegram to the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, expressing his condolences to the families of the victims: "His Holiness Pope Francis joins in prayer with the pain of the bereaved families and the sadness of all the French. The Holy Father reiterates his condemnation of the violence, which generates so much suffering, and, imploring God to give the gift of peace, he assures the affected families and all the French the benefit of divine blessings."

Earlier last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury released a statement, in French and English, urging France to remain united in the face of terror: "The people of France, a country in which I have lived, which I know and love, will rise courageously above the challenge of this vile attack and continue to demonstrate strength and confidence arising out of their great history."

In Britain, there have been demonstrations in support of freedom of speech and Charlie Hebdo, and numerous groups and organisations have released statements condemning the attacks. Among them were the Muslim Council of Britain, the Islamic Society of Britain, the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, the British Humanist Association, and the International Humanist and Ethical Union. The Church of England has released prayers for the victims.

A letter signed by dozens of imams, and released by the Muslim Council of Britain, called on the UK's Muslims to show restraint after Charlie Hebdo published another cartoon depicting Muhammad.

"Most Muslims will inevitably be hurt, offended and upset by the republication of the cartoons," the letter said. "But our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the gentle and merciful character of the Prophet."

In Chelmsford, the Dean, the Very Revd Nicholas Henshall, and the imam of Chelmsford Mosque, Kashif Ahmad, stood side by side in a public display of solidarity to denounce the killings in Paris as an affront to Christians and Muslims alike.

An act of public remembrance was held in Sheffield near the city's cenotaph. Local politicians and representatives of different faith groups, including the Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, reflected on the atrocities in Paris.

In the diocese of Southwell & Nottingham, bishops were joined by archdeacons, imams, and rabbis in a fast on Monday in sympathy and solidarity with the victims and their families. The Bishops of Southwell & Nottingham, and Sherwood, along with leaders from Nottingham's Jewish and Muslim communities, all condemned the terrorist atrocities in Paris, and said that they would continue working together for the common good.


by Gregg Ryan, Ireland Correspondent

IRISH Muslims would use the Republic's blasphemy laws to prosecute anyone who published cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, a leading Islamic lecturer and spokesman for the country's Islamic Centre, Dr Ali Selim, said.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo and Jewish-delicatessen killings in Paris last week, Dr Salim said that, although a publisher's life would not be under threat in Ireland, he would "check the Irish law, and if there is any legal channel against you, we will take it".

Dr Salim said that linking the motives of the Paris gunmen to Islam was unfair, and he would take legal advice should Irish publications republish or tweet cartoons that made fun of Islam.

It seems unlikely that a referendum to remove the blasphemy prohibition from the Irish constitution will now take place in the term of the present government; there are, however, proposals to legislate for more robust laws prohibiting incitement to religious hatred and associated offences.

Forthcoming Events

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
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4-8 July 2022
HeartEdge Mission Summer School
From HeartEdge and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

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