Terror in France escalates militant Islam conflict

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Terror in France escalates militant Islam conflict

Wikimedia/NonOmnisMoriar

Wikimedia/NonOmnisMoriar

Wikimedia/NonOmnisMoriar

By Becca Garner, Carlmont High School

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Nearly 15 years ago, America became the target of Al-Qaeda’s aggression in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Since the attacks, many more terrorist organizations have appeared throughout Europe.

Most recently, on Jan. 7, gunmen opened fire on a staff meeting at the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical newspaper which had published anti-Islamic political cartoons. Twelve people, including the editor of the paper and two police officers, died in the attack; eleven were injured.

French president François Hollande declared Jan. 8 a day of mourning, and the Eiffel Tower’s lights were shut off in tribute. The police have named three suspects: brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, and Hamyd Mourad. Mourad turned himself into the police; according to the New York Times, he was not charged.

The search for Said and Cherif Kouachi took a dramatic turn when the two were cornered by police in a small town, Dammartin-en-Goele, to the east of Paris. According to the police, the Kouachis proceeded to lay siege to offices of a small printing firm, taking five hostages.

At the same time, Paris was experiencing another hostage situation. Amedy Coulibaly was named in the French media as being responsible for holding multiple hostages at gunpoint. Both Coulibaly and Kouachi have long rap sheets for suspected terrorism. The two met in Fleury-Merogis prison in 2005, according to The Guardian.

The police identified Coulibaly, along with Hayat Boumeddiene, as suspect in the unrelated killing of a French policewoman on Thursday.

The international community has responded strongly through social media to the terrorism in Paris. Mario Brey, president of Spain, tweeted that he will be visiting Paris on Sunday to demonstrate that “Spain stands with France against terrorism and for liberty.” Others have coined the phrase “Je suis Charlie”–“I am Charlie”–in respect for the cartoonists who lost their lives on Wednesday and in outrage against their killers.

Although far from Paris, Carlmont High School students are still concerned with the implications of the attacks. Hiba Dahbour, a Carlmont senior and practicing Muslim, commented on the unique experience of being called a terrorist solely based on her religion. “I really don’t like how there has to be an attack on my religion…just because a killer is a Muslim, we’re all labeled as terrorists,” she said.

The attacks have been called an affront to free speech and freedom of religion. However, Dahbour has a slightly different take. “I believe in freedom of speech, but when you’re talking about someone’s race or religion, its just a trigger. Charlie Hebdo knew their cartoon was wrong,” she said. “I don’t think journalists should make fun of races, period. There’s other things to talk about.”

Dahbour said that the magazine’s depiction of Muhammed was received by many Muslims as a direct attack on their religion.  Still, “the shooters didn’t have to be violent in their reaction,” she said.

Junior Marion Demailly provided an alternative perspective on the terror in France. Many of her relatives live in France. “My mom’s really passionate about what happened; she’s been talking about it a lot, and yesterday she went to San Francisco for a protest about it,” Demailly said. While freedom of speech protected the actions of the Charlie Hebdo staff, she does not support the newspaper’s actions. “Those people didn’t have to die,” she said.