More than 225 years after the French Revolution, religious fanatics are shooting people down for following the example of Voltaire. Twelve people were murdered by gunmen wielding AK-47s at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical magazine that, like Voltaire, considered religion fair game for mockery—and unlike many of its contemporaries in France and elsewhere, did not consider Islam to have a special exemption from this rule. Hebdo had persevered in this view despite suffering for their convictions: its office was firebombed in 2011 after it published a cartoon of Mohammed. The victims included the editor-in-chief, a satirical cartoonist, and a policeman. The attackers escaped, but from reports, their motivation seems to have been Islamic extremism.Europe dreams that it has entered a post-historical paradise of international peace and social tranquillity resting on blue model social capitalism and the cooling of religious passion. In reality, every year the foundations of Europe’s peace and order are eroding. The great achievements of European civilization and culture have to be defended, and at the end of the day you can’t defend something unless you believe in it.At The American Interest we believe in respecting religious sentiment, not because we fear boneheaded fanatics but because we think true respect for our fellow human beings requires a certain respect for their sentiments and convictions. The role of a publication like ours is more to examine than écraser l’infâme. But that does not mean that we think that satirists and even provocateurs who insult those sentiments should be punished, either by blasphemy laws or, worse, by vicious and depraved goon squads.After Hebdo came under threat for running the Danish Mohammed cartoons in an act of solidarity in 2006, it ran a cartoon of Islam’s prophet with the caption, “It’s hard to be loved by idiots.” It’s even harder to be hated by them. Our condolences to the writers, the police, and their families.
Ecrasez L'InfameThe Massacre in Paris
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