I have made it a general rule that I will refrain from making any political comment on my blog ... but yesterday's attack in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo made me decide to break that rule. Like the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, this was an attack on more than just a single target; it was an attack on the belief system, culture, and civilisation of which I am a part. I do not claim that that they are in any way superior to anyone else's, but I do feel that they are worth protecting.
I have never read Charlie Hebdo – in fact before yesterday I had never even heard of it – and if I had I might not have liked any or all of its content … but that is not the point. We are supposed to live in a society where other people are allowed to hold and express opinions that might be repugnant to us as individuals because allowing them that freedom allows us the freedom to hold and express our own opinions. (I must add the caveat that holding and expressing any opinion does not excuse the holder from criminal prosecution if that opinion has been deemed to be unlawful by society as a whole.)
As Pastor Martin Niemöller once said:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out ...So today I will be joining lots of other people and speaking out:
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out ...
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out ...
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
JE SUIS CHARLIE
It goes without saying that my condolences and sympathy go out to the families of the people who were killed.
As I was writing this blog entry, I just heard the news that there had been a further fatal shooting in Paris. We can but hope that this incident is unrelated to yesterday’s events.