Twelve people have died and three others were critically injured as gunmen opened fire at the office of a Paris-based satirical newspaper today, police said, an attack that France’s president called a “terrorist operation.”
The shooting at the office of Charlie Hebdo was a “cowardly attack,” said French President Francois Hollande, speaking at the shooting scene.
Among the dead were four prominent cartoonists who have repeatedly lampooned Islamic terrorists and the prophet Muhammad, leading to speculation that the attack was the work of Islamic militants acting alone or in concert with extremist groups. A police guard assigned to protect the newspaper was among the first victims. A second police officer, who responded to reports of the shooting, was killed on the sidewalk outside the offices by the fleeing suspects, the Paris police said. The shooting of the second police officer was captured in a widely-seen video.
Four artists, murdered for defying Islam. Just like Theo van Gogh. More:
The cover of the newspaper on Wednesday featured a caricature of Michel Houellebecq, a controversial novelist whose sixth novel, “Submission,” predicts a France one day run by Muslims, in which women forsake Western dress and polygamy is introduced. On the cover, Mr. Houellebecq is depicted as a wizard and smoking a cigarette. “In 2022, I will do Ramadan,” he is shown saying.
The book’s publication, ahead of presidential elections in 2017, comes as the increasingly influential far-right National Front has helped spur a loud and often acrimonious debate about immigration. The attack comes as nearly 1,000 French citizens have gone or planned to join jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria last year, further fueling concerns about radical Islam encroaching into France.
These murderers have likely just elected France’s first National Front government. Not saying that I want that to happen. Saying that it will happen, in part because the left establishment will find some way to blame the journalists and artists, and novelist Michel Houellebecq, for being provocateurs.
Leaving aside all politics, I say let us stand in solidarity with the French, and with French journalists and all journalists and artists who have the guts to stand up to these fascist Islamists. Vive la France!
UPDATE: Yes, this:
Hard not to feel, today more than other days, that the future of the European project will be settled, one way or another, in France.
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) January 7, 2015
It may turn out that Michel Houellebecq is not only an artist, but a prophet. From the Telegraph, just before the Paris attack (Charlie Hebdo has Houellebecq on the cover this week):
After previously claiming Islam was the “the stupidest of all religions”, the novelist declared: “The Koran turns out to be much better than I thought now that I’ve reread, or rather read it.”
“Atheism and secularism are dead, so is the French republic,” he told NouvelObs.
While the work is undoubtedly provocative, French critics were split over its literary merits with Le Monde’s Raphaêlle Leyris claiming Submission was “his most mediocre to date” and Les Echos saying there are “better things to read”.
Writer Emmanuel Carrère, however, insisted it was a “sublime book” by an author whose vision is “more powerful than Aldous Huxley or George Orwell”.
“If there one person in the literary world, and not just the French one, who can think through this huge mutation we all feel is under way without having the means to analyse it, it is him,” he said.
Carrère’s observation is very important, for this reason: artists often can feel things that cannot yet be articulated, though they can be depicted. Obviously I have no idea if Houellebecq has accomplished this for France in this new novel, but I think it is entirely plausible. There is a big change coming over France, which has dechristianized, but has not found anything strong enough to replace the faith it cast aside. My guess is that Houellebecq gets this, and is speaking truths that few people in the French establishment want to hear. In any case, I eagerly await the English translation of his book.