Europe defends free speech, beats terror

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

In 2011, the Charlie Hebdo offices were fire-bombed and their website was hacked, after they published a special edition aimed at the prophet Muhammad.

On January 7, Islamic terrorists attacked the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo for making fun of their religion’s founder, the “prophet” Muhammad. The following weekend, 3.7 million people marched alongside 40 world leaders into the heart of Paris, holding a national unity demonstration that was the biggest public rally in France since World War II. Now, European countries are cracking down on terrorists, partnering with 20 countries like the USA and Arab states.

Charlie Hebdo is a weekly newspaper known for its satire, which means using humor to criticize political and religious ideas. Their cartoonists have drawn pictures of Muhammad, an act that religious extremists believe is forbidden by Allah (the Arabic word for “God”).

Law enforcement officials quickly hunted down the gunmen, who took hostages and caused mayhem after their strike against Charlie Hebdo’s offices.

Artists from around the world rallied in support of free speech and their fallen French comrades, publishing cartoons and coining the phrase “Je suis Charlie”, or “I am Charlie” in French. Leading the mega march in Paris, French President Francois Hollande said, “Paris is the capital of the world today.” He walked beside other European leaders like British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Police and military forces are on high alert, especially in the United Kingdom (UK) and Belgium. Last week, Belgian forces broke up a terror group, and their leader is still at large. “We have to strengthen the way we cooperate,” said European Union foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini. “We need to share information more, we need to cooperate more also among member states.”

Featured image courtesy of Olivier Ortelpa on Flickr. Image of 2011 wreckage courtesy of Pierre-Yves Beaudouin on Wikimedia.