Until today, I thought the last people of French origin worthy of any respect were Charles Martel and his army of Franks - the men who heroically beat back the advance of Islamic armies into Europe. That was in 732 A.D. - a turning point in history.
It has been a long dry spell, but today, I can stand and salute France's stand on free speech, and in particular, the publishers of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, a magazine that has had its headquarters firebombed previously for "blasphemy" against the Prophet of the religion of peace. The magazine is in the midst of publishing more caricatures of Mohammed and the radical Islamists, this time based on the movie "Innocence of Muslims." This from the USA Today:
France stepped up security at some of its embassies on Wednesday after a satirical Parisian weekly published crude caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. The prime minister said he would block a demonstration by people angry over a movie insulting to Islam as the country plunged into a fierce debate about free speech.
The government defended the right of magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish the cartoons, which played off of the U.S.-produced film The Innocence of Muslims, and riot police took up positions outside the offices of the magazine, which was firebombed last year after it released an edition that mocked radical Islam.
What, no phone calls to the publisher from the Chief of Staff? No statements of disgust at the content from the President or the Sec. of State? No calls from the left to have the publisher jailed for blasphemy against Islam? Government protection of the publisher instead of sending brown-shirts to drag him from his home after midnight for questioning - or fingering him for the Islamists?
Hey, this is France, people, the place that quite literally introduced the word "surrender" into Anglo-Saxon English. This is the place that probably has more white flag factories than any other place on this earth. This is the place that gave birth to socialism and the war on Christianity. And their government - albeit with some wavering - and at least a part of their media are showing more backbone than our current administration and media?
The small-circulation weekly Charlie Hebdo often draws attention for ridiculing sensitivity around the Prophet Mohammed, and an investigation into the firebombing of its offices last year is still open. The magazine's website was down Wednesday for reasons that were unclear.
One of the cartoonists, who goes by the name of Tignous, defended the drawings in an interview Wednesday with the AP at the weekly's offices, on the northeast edge of Paris amid a cluster of housing projects.
"It's just a drawing," he said. "It's not a provocation." . . .
On the streets of Paris, public reaction was mixed.
"I'm not shocked at all. If this shocks people, well too bad for them," said Sylvain Marseguerra, a 21-year-old student at the Sorbonne. "We are free to say what we want. We are a country in which freedom prevails and ... if this doesn't enchant some people, well too bad for them."
Khairreddene Chabbara disagreed. "We are for freedom of expression, but when it comes to religion it shouldn't hurt the feelings of believers."
Charlie Hebdo has courted potentially dangerous controversy in the past. Last November the magazine's front-page, was subtitled "Sharia Hebdo," a reference to Islamic law, and showed caricatures of radical Muslims. The newspaper's offices were destroyed in a firebomb attack just hours before the edition hit newsstands.
In 2006, Charlie Hebdo printed reprints of caricatures carried by a Danish newspaper in 2005 that stoked anger across the Islamic world. Many European papers reprinted the drawings in the name of media freedom.
Charlie Hebdo has also faced legal challenges. The weekly was acquitted in 2008 by a Paris appeals court of "publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion" following a complaint by Muslim associations. . . .
For refusing to back down and silence themselves in response to the violent animals of the Middle East - and those in their own midst - I can honestly say that I now have respect for a second group of French people very much in the mold of their great predecessor, Charles Martel. Let me utter words that I honestly thought would never pass my lips: Viva La' France.