This morning, in another devastating attack by an Islamic extremist, three people in the French city of Nice were killed inside a church when an assailant came after them with a knife.
It’s the latest incident stemming from the backlash over the publication of caricatures of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. Two weeks ago, a teacher who showed students those pictures was beheaded by another Islamic murderer.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he would immediately increase the number of soldiers deployed to protect schools and religious sites from around 3,000 currently to 7,000. French churches have been ferociously attacked by extremists in recent years, and Thursday’s killings come ahead of the Roman Catholic All Saints’ holiday.
“He cried ‘Allah Akbar!’ over and over, even after he was injured,” said Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi, who said a woman and a man died inside the church, while a second woman fled to a nearby bar but was mortally wounded. “The meaning of his gesture left no doubt.”
It’s not clear if the killer was part of a larger group; authorities believe he was acting alone. Still, the attacks suggest a rejection of both freedom of speech and freedom of religion if those things come into conflict with an extremist interpretation of Islam.
The murders ought to be condemned — obviously — but I would strongly echo what Humanists UK said earlier today: Let’s not make the mistake of claiming the attacks today are “retaliation.” That would imply people (not even the victims, but others in general) did something they shouldn’t have done. Satire has a purpose. Educating students, even if it uses imagery some religious people don’t like, has a purpose. None of that warrants violence, much less a death sentence.
Feelings of offence can never justify violence just as, on their own, they can never justify censorship. Attempts to draw any kind of moral equivalence between drawing cartoons or defending artistic freedom on the one hand, and violent murder and decapitation on the other, are disgusting.
There’s been a suggestion by nations like Pakistan that we need stronger laws prohibiting blasphemy in order to prevent all this. That’s precisely backwards. Censoring speech is what the terrorists want. No one should cave to their demands.
(Image via Shutterstock)