COI Gazette – 16th January 2015

Muslims on edge after Paris terrorist attack on satirical magazine


Candles in Belfast Cathedral were lit for the fatally wounded.

A horrific attack on Wednesday of last week in Paris on the weekly satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, that mocked Islam left 12 people dead at the scene, as well as a further 11 injured, and placed the Muslim community on edge. A search for the perpetrators, and more deaths and injuries, followed.

On the next day, candles were burning in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit in St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, in tribute to the 12 people killed – a candle for each of the victims who died in the shooting at the office of the magazine. With further deaths, more candles were added.

The candles, which were to remain in place at least until last Sunday, surrounded a central candle representing unity with the victims.

Speaking on Thursday of last week, the Dean of Belfast, the Very Revd John Mann, said: “In St Anne’s Cathedral, people of all ages have come and gone today, lighting candles and praying, remembering the dreadful murders yesterday in Paris.




Following the calculated and ruthless killing on Wednesday of last week (7th January) of the editor of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, his police guard, nine others also present at the magazine’s office at the time and a further police officer, a massive manhunt was immediately under way. That led to the two brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi – who committed the Charlie Hebdo terror attacks – themselves being killed last Friday, while shooting at police as they left a building where they had been in hiding. That was at Dammartin-en-Goele, approximately 20 miles outside Paris.

Meanwhile, a gunman shot two people in the Parisian suburb of Montrouge, killing a policewoman and injuring one man. Police reportedly confirmed that this crime was linked to the attack at the office of Charlie Hebdo. Not long after this, police stormed a Kosher supermarket in Paris where a gunman, thought to be the Montrouge attacker, had gone on to hold hostages. He was shot dead by police, who reported then finding the bodies of four hostages at the scene, people who, they said, had been killed before the assault. Fifteen other hostages were rescued. Last weekend there were huge protests against the terror attacks and on Sunday hundreds of thousands of people took part in a unity march through Paris, with some 40 leaders from around the world linking arms to show their support.

The whole débâcle naturally raises the issue of press freedom. Indeed, the President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Dalil Boubakeur, described the assault on Charlie Hebdo as an “attack against  democracy and freedom of the press” (report, page 1). There is no doubt that the magazine published material that was highly offensive to Muslim people but, while religious people naturally can protest in a peaceful manner at being insulted in such ways, the criminal acts of crazed violence such as were witnessed in Paris are utterly to be condemned.

Precisely what the Charlie Hebdo and related killings tell us about where western European society is going is unclear, but certainly there are huge tensions, such as in Germany over the Pegida movement (report, page 12). Nearer to home, the leading Belfast Muslim, Dr Raied Al-Wazzan, of the Belfast Islamic Centre, has moved further to clarify comments he made on BBC Radio Ulster with regard to the radical Islamic State (IS) grouping – comments which have caused real concern. Speaking about the Iraqi city of Mosul, which IS overran in June of last year, Dr Al-Wazzan described it as now “the most peaceful city in the world”, adding that his relatives living there had told him life was better now and that IS people were “less evil than the Iraqi government”. He claimed: “Islamic State came to protect a section of society that had been marginalised, and foreign policy had pushed part of society to reach this point.”

Dr Al-Wazzan stated on the programme that mainstream Islam “never supports radicalisation” and later contacted the BBC to say that he wished to emphasise that he does not support Islamic State and condemns all forms of violence. That further clarification and Dr Al-Wazzan’s subsequent apology are to be welcomed.


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CONVICTIONS Author: Marcus J. Borg Publisher: SPCK; pp.231

ARTHUR’S CALL Author: Frances Young Publisher: SPCK

TEN: WHY CHRISTIANITY MAKES SENSE Author: John Pritchard Publisher: SPCK




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