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JAN 20 - JAN 28, 2015

Somebody’s Got To Do It; We are Charlie Hebdo!

By Mike Hudson

January 20, 2015

As you can see, Charlie Hebdo cartoons are vile, crude and puerile. But we don’t think people should be killed for them, and we do think our readers should be able to view them....


Prior to January 7, few outside of Paris had heard of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French weekly newspaper. Irreverent to a fault, the publication regularly lampooned politicians both right and left, business leaders and religious figures, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish and Muslim.

Even in Paris, few paid much attention. The paper’s 60,000 circulation was a drop in the bucket in a city of 2.2 million.

But on that fateful day, two masked gunmen carrying Kalashnikov rifles entered the offices of Charlie Hebdo and opened fire. Shouting "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for “God is Greatest,” they loosed off as many as 50 rounds, killing 11 and wounding 11 others. In making their escape, they also shot and killed a Paris policeman.

The rampage was sparked by a series of cartoons the newspaper had run depicting the prophet Mohammed variously posing naked or making inappropriate remarks. Charlie Hebdo had been criticized by many non-Muslims for the disrespect shown by the cartoons.

Most media critics are unarmed, and freedom of expression is a treasured and, some might say, God given right in most of the civilized world. But in places such as Yemen, where the gunmen were affiliated with the local branch of al Qaeda, it can be an offense punishable by death.

Charif and Said Kouachi were brothers of Algerian descent, raised in foster homes and orphanages following the suicide of their mother. In their early 30s at the time of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the brothers had become radicalized a decade earlier, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

They were well known to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in France, the United States and Great Britain. A massive manhunt ended two days after the cowardly attack on the newspaper offices when the brothers’ wish to die as martyrs was fulfilled and they went down in a hail of police bullets.

In much of the world, journalism can be a contact sport, especially when it involves covering conflict and organized crime. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 61 were killed worldwide in 2014, down from 70 the year before.

And while Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan are among the deadliest countries for working newsmen and women, it’s also open season in places closer to home, like Mexico.

Journalists are rarely killed in the United States but it does happen, and here at the Niagara Falls Reporter, death threats have not been infrequent.

Because, like cockroaches, certain elements of what might loosely be referred to as humanity fear having the light shined on them. And others take themselves so seriously that a joke at their expense can only be avenged in blood.

The Kouachi brothers were like that. The edition of Charlie Hebdo that came out a week prior to the massacre was Muslim themed, with a cover cartoon depicting a turbaned cleric pronouncing, “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.”

These are the cartoons and covers of Charlie Hebdo that sparked an attack that killed 12 people. Since we couldn’t find any western mainstream news media that has published these, we thought our readers might like to see them.

Freedom of expression was deemed so important by the Founding Fathers that they guaranteed it in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. And here at the Reporter, we view its’ preservation as a sacred mission.

Curiously, the reaction of the American media to the Charlie Hebdo massacre has been nuanced to a fault. Rather than outrage, much of the coverage has expressed – if not sympathy – at least an attempt understanding of the motives behind a senseless attack that left a dozen innocent people dead.

The truth is that there is no understanding. The killers and their ilk are and were psychopaths, mad dogs the world is better off without.

And while there’s been endless talk about the offending cartoons and wordy descriptions of them, no American media outlet we’ve been able to locate has actually shown them.

Whether out of cowardice or misplaced sensitivity, the American public has been denied the opportunity to see exactly what sparked the horrific rampage by the Kouachis.

The lack of coverage has not gone unnoticed. On Sunday, Gerard Biard, who took over as editor in chief of Charlie Hebdo following the massacre, criticized his colleagues in the United States and elsewhere.

“This cartoon is not just a little figure. It’s a symbol. It’s the symbol of freedom of speech, of freedom of religion, of democracy and secularism,” Biard said. “When they refuse to publish this cartoon, when they blur it out, when they decline to publish it, they blur out democracy.”

Late last week, Reporter Publisher Frank Parlato reached out to me, as he sometimes does, to see what I thought about publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons both as a public service and as a show of solidarity with the journalists who had died for them. Shocked by the lily livered response by the U.S. press, Frank felt that somebody ought to print them here, and if that somebody had to be us, so be it.

I agreed. “Hell yeah,” I said.

So here they are. The images 12 people died over. Some are funny, some are not.

Islam is not a violent religion, but the bastardized and radicalized version of it practiced by fundamentalists in the Middle East and, increasingly, in Western democracies most certainly is, in much the same way that the grotesquely twisted version of fundamentalist Christianity has led to the murder of obstetricians and the bombing of abortion clinics in the United States.

“Every time that we draw a cartoon of Muhammad, every time that we draw a cartoon of the prophet, every time that we draw a cartoon of God, we defend the freedom of religion,” Gerard Biard said Sunday. “It is also the freedom of speech. Religion should not be a political argument.”
Clearly, the Kouachi brothers believed they had silenced their target.

"We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad. We have killed Charlie Hebdo!" one of them shouted as they made their getaway.

They were sadly mistaken. The little French newspaper put out an edition after the attack sold seven million copies in six languages, in contrast to its usual 60,000 circulation French only print run.
And here in America, the Niagara Falls Reporter, at least, is Charlie Hebdo.


These are the cartoons that people killed for - in the name of religion.


Related Story:
Why We Chose to Publish the Hebdo Cartoons When Nobody Else Will





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©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina