A gruesome attack

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A gruesome attack

Masked gunmen stormed into a Paris office of a satirical newspaper known for lampooning Islam and opened fire, killing 12 people including the paper°Øs editor and four cartoonists during an editorial meeting Wednesday. The shooting rampage was the deadliest terrorist attack in France°Øs recent history.

As a news organization, we must condemn this brutal and gruesome terrorist attack against freedom of expression. Press freedom is one of the key pillars of democracy. Threats and attacks against the press cannot be justified under any cause or name.

Charlie Hebdo has been under threat for some time, having openly criticized religious extremists. Its offices have been bombed and threatened after it published provocative caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. Just before the attack, the paper tweeted a satirical cartoon of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. The terrorist group may have wanted to make a point by sending a warning to Western media with an act of violence.

But it is clearly foolish if it believes acts of terrorism can influence or silence the press. The press becomes meaningless if it can be censored and controlled. Religion cannot be exempt from scrutiny, criticism or satire.

Religious intolerance against any form of questioning and critical examination is no more than dead dogma. Islamic extremists are tragic fallouts of dogmatic rigidity. Terrorists are not Muslims, and acts of violence should not be carried out in the name of Islam.

As troubles in the economy in the eurozone protract, anti-immigrant policies and sentiments are on the rise.

Because Arab and African Muslims now make up a big share of immigrant societies in Europe, bigotry against the Islamic community as a whole is building up to an Islamophobia phenomenon. The latest shocking assault took place in France, which has the largest Muslim population in Europe.

Some are already saying that France°Øs far-right political party National Front will benefit the most from the recent tragedy.

But the incident should not trigger resentment or hostility toward the Islamic community. Neither should it spark racial and religious conflicts or send Europe to the extreme right. That would be what the terrorists want.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 9, Page 30

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