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February 2, 2015

  At the time of my writing this blog, all the names of the victims of the terrorist attack on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had not been released. Rather than name just a few of the victims, I chose to use NOUS SOMMES CHARLIE (We are Charlie) as the subject of my EVERYDAY HEROES blog this month. After the murder by two avowed followers of Al Qaida in Yemen of twelve members of the Charlie Hebdo staff, a popular movement erupted among people all over the world which involved holding up Je Suis Charlie and Nous Sommes Charlie signs. But that movement was one of the shortest lived I have ever experienced. The debate immediately began over whether the Charlie Hebdo staff had instigated their own deaths. I was disgusted about the attack, and the subsequent murders of a French policewoman and four patrons of a kosher grocery near Paris, all by Islamic terrorists who acted out of some sick, monstrous interpretation of Islamic tenets. But I am even more disgusted by the apologists for these insane perpetrators of violence. The editorial policy of Charlie Hebdo may have made many uncomfortable and antagonized an element of the Muslim community who have the most narrow view of alternative viewpoints, but all of that is beside the point. The point of Charlie Hebdo’s editorial policy was that free expression is the foundation of a free society. Those who held signs reading Je Suis Charlie may have promoted the concept of solidarity with the employees at Charlie Hebdo, but the essence of their message should really have been that they supported Charlie Hebdo’s right to publish whatever they damned well choose. Syndicated columnist David Ignatius wrote that “. . . governments and individuals need to be careful about unintentionally feeding the grievance narratives of Muslims around the world. When people are feeling insulted, it’s dangerous to insult them gratuitously again.” Ignatius went on to write, “It’s like kicking over a hornet’s nest. We’re free to do so in an open society, but is it wise?” The second that Ignatius wrote those words, he accepted the premise that, in fact, we don’t live in an open society, except when we denigrate every group but Muslims. A free society doesn’t work like that, and a society that works like that is not only not free, but it also doesn’t work. The moment that a writer or speaker parses his words to accommodate the sensibilities of any group, that is the moment when freedom of expression suffers and the foundation of a free society begins to crumble. Why is it okay to ridicule Christian beliefs and customs, for example, but not to even question the actions of maniacs who place zero value on the lives of those who disagree with their beliefs? Why do so many look for excusable reasons for bad or violent behavior on the part of Muslim fanatics but accept no excuse for even the slightest deviation from the norm on the part of non-Muslims? The victims of the attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices understood their rights as members of a free society. They understood their responsibility to shine light upon deviant thinking and deviant behavior. And the reason they were EVERYDAY HEROES is because they knew how radical the thinking of Muslim extremists was and they were fully aware of the risks they took. But, because they believed in their rights and responsibilities as members of a free society, they editorialized accordingly. I say again, the second that any speaker or writer hesitates to express his unadulterated views is the moment when that speaker or writer becomes a coward, and, if we as a society accept diluted speech and watered down writings, we too become a society of cowards. To some degree, that is already happening. Examples of that watered down speech are all around us. Terrorism at Fort Hood, Texas that kills 13 and wounds another 30 is termed “work-place violence.” There is only a “War on Terror,” not a war against violent Muslim extremists. I didn’t dilute my words in novels such as Terror Cell, The Nostradamus Secret, and The Lone Wolf Agenda. I won’t dilute my words in my next novel, Death Ship. I hope all my fellow writers will tell it like it is. That’s the only way we can sustain a free society. Joseph Badal writes this monthly blog about Everyday Heroes. He is the author of thriller and mystery novels and short stories.

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