January 7, 2015: Charlie Hebdo attack

On January 7, 2015 two French AQAP terrorists forced their way into the Paris offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, killing 11 and wounding another 12.

PARIS, FRANCE – While insults may be mean and cause hurt they cannot be repaid with murder.

There is an old saying ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’, a belief that we can do more damage with words than with our actions. But how old is this adage? Well, it was first penned (literally!) by British novelist and playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 in his play Cardinal Richilieu (“The pen is mightier than the sword… Take away the sword; States can be saved without it!“).

For the record, Bulwer-Lytton is also credited with the stock phrase “it was a dark and stormy night”, now used for an annual literary contest for badly written first sentences (the 2021 grand prize winner was a New Zealander who wrote this groaner: A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold, thus exposing her dusky bosom to the dawn’s ogling stare.”).

You see? Words are so powerful even dogs use them! (Photo: Divine Harvester on flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

While the pen may indeed be mightier than the sword, nonetheless there are those who prefer the latter to the former.

On this day in 2015

Two French brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, who claimed to be members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP),  forced their way into the Paris offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding another 12. The reason for their action was the alleged ‘insults to Islam contained in the publication, including a reproduction of the infamous 2005 Danish Jyllands PostenMuhammad cartoons‘.

I realised I was going to die. It was the end of my life. I waited my turn. Often one asks oneself how one will die. Me, I was going to die here, on the ground at Charlie Hebdo at my newspaper. The shooting continued. I asked myself if I was going to get a bullet in the head, in the lungs, I was counting the seconds because I said every second that passes could be my last.

Laurent Sourisseau, a.k.a. Riss, current head of Charlie Hebdo

Two days later the brothers were eventually hunted down and killed by French police: good riddance to bad rubbish. Question: who gave them the authority to act on behalf of 1+ billion Muslims and kill journalists? Over a cartoon?

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By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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