The 7 January 2015 assault on the offices of satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, and the subsequent manhunt and hostage crisis, have ignited debate throughout the Western world over the role of free speech, the press, and religion in modern society, and the role of government in regulating them.

Nations and their citizens worldwide have trumpeted their support for freedom of expression in the wake of the killings, but actions have at times stood at odds with words. In France, over 50 people have been arrested for expression labelled hate speech or glorification of terrorism, and special measures for immediate sentencing have been utilized against an unknown number of those arrested. The French government has also taken steps to expand its abilities to monitor the private communications of its citizens.

Here in Talossa, the question of an appropriate response to the killings remains contentious. In his "War on Terrorism Act," Membreu dal Cosa Txosuè Éiric Rôibeardescù (Liberal Congress) proposed that Talossa declare "war on terrorism, a war of peace and love to our fellow humans." In an interview with Beric'ht, S:reu Rôibeardescù stated that he authored the Act "to point out that terrorism is rising currently within more radicalised circlest, not just purely Muslim, but with other forms such as the north Korean hacks of sony and the scaremongering of attacks on movie goers, this too is an act of terrorism, doing something big to strike fear into ones enemy."

Reaction to this proposal was mixed. To the idea that terrorism is rising within radicalized circles, Distáin Miestrâ Schivâ (ZRT) responded that  "The term seems like a meaningless buzzword, which in some cases could include myself."

Noting that no Talossan has ever been suspected of belonging to an organised terrorist group, Distáin Schivâ continued, saying "I believe that the Government of Talossa should focus on things within its immediate purview, such as the good functioning of the legal system, growing immigration, improving the use of el glheþ naziunál, rather than things that we can do nothing about [...] the Government issued a statement of condolence for the victims of terrorist murder in Paris earlier this month, so there can be no question about 'which side we're on'."

A majority of MCs who issued comment shared the feeling that a sense of the ziu would be more appropriate in this instance, including MC Iustì Carlüs Canun (RUMP) and MC C. Carlüs Xheraltescù (Liberal Congress).

Charlie Hebdo’s most recent issue - the first after the shootings - had a print run of seven million, up from its standard run of sixty thousand thanks in part to a donation of $300,000.00 from Google. The issue, like others before it, features a cover illustration of the Prophet Mohammed. Many Muslims worldwide consider depictions of the Prophet to be offensive to their faith. Some commentators, such as Al Jazeera’s Sharif Nashashibi, have accused the magazine of perpetuating a double standard in which Muslims are fair game for criticism, while other minorities are given greater protection. “In my 10 years as head of a British media watchdog,” wrote Nashashibi “it has become clear that Muslims are often described in derogatory ways that are unacceptable regarding other communities.” These critics often point to the 2008 firing of Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Maurice Sinet over accusations of anti-semitism in his work.

Beric'ht's own cartoonist Eric S. Mildew has ignited a controversy perhaps familiar to the followers of Charlie Hebdo. In the paper's most recent issue, Mildew expressed solidarity with the French publication, adding that "Talossans stand against every Muslim who threatens cartoonists for expressing their ideas.” Some, including Distáin Schivâ, herself a darvish in the Sufi school of Islam, interpreted this as a personal attack on her. Longtime Beric'ht columnist C. Carlüs Xheraltescù agreed, saying there "certainly appears to be implied that a comparison can be made between the tragic events in Paris and the Rt. Honourable Distain." While praising Beric'ht generally as "incredible step on the road to a free press," S:reu Xheraltescù, who departed his position following the publication of the comic, called such a comparison "disgusting," stating that "My departure [from Beric’ht Talossan] relates entirely to the behaviour of certain contributors who have made the paper the public face of fortnightly personal attacks against a colleague and a good friend of mine. I love writing, especially when it's concerned with my own opinions, but if doing so means I support thoughtless, vindictive attacks against someone I respect a great deal, then count me out."

Whether the dialogues opened by the Charlie Hebdo attacks will lead to a fruitful discussion of the role of free speech in the modern world, or a cycle of increasing violence and state crackdowns on expression remains to be seen. Protests have broken against Charlie Hebdo in nations such as Iran, Chechnya, and Niger, where forty-five churches were burned to the ground, while vigils in support of the magazine sprang up in Dublin, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Brussels, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Tunis, Lima, Rio de Janeiro, and across France. But this story goes beyond a simple narrative of east against west, or secularism against Islam. Witness Adel Defilaux, owner of an east London cafe, who was threatened by an unidentified man for his cafe’s hand-chalked ‘Je Suis Charlie’ sign. Adel Defilaux is French, and a Muslim. "We have received thousands of messages of support from so many people all around the world,” he said. “It is so beautiful to see how many of us are standing up for peace." 


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