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Office of the Chief Rabbi

Statement: Charlie Hebdo shooting

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The Chief Rabbi reacts to the savage attack on the Paris office of the satirical Charlie Hebdo magazine, emphasising that murder can never be justified in the name of God and asserting that increased censorship would only be another triumph for the terrorists.

“Decent people of all religions and of none will join me in condemning the brutal murders earlier today at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper in Paris, of cartoonists, editorial staff and the editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier, and of French police officers.

I am of course aware that this publication has a long record of iconoclastic and provocative satire. The cover of one controversial issue of Charlie Hebdo in 2012 depicted an ultra-Orthodox Jew pushing a wheelchair-bound Muslim, labelling both as aspiring to immunity from mockery: it satirised both my religion and Islam together. I found this cartoon and other material they have published offensive, but this does not in any way dilute or diminish my outrage and anguish at today’s massacre.

I reiterate the response which I made in December to a violent attack in Pakistan where the victims were Muslim schoolchildren and some of their teachers: no responsible religious or political figure could possibly excuse or mitigate this repugnant crime. Anyone who seeks to provide political or religious cover to terrorists (or to those who sent them) shares in their shame.

‘No responsible religious or political figure could possibly excuse or mitigate this repugnant crime’

It would be wrong to respond to this terrorist attack by playing into the hands of the perpetrators by compromising the fundamental human right of freedom of speech, by self-censorship in the face of intimidation, by blaming all Muslims for the crimes of extremist Islamists, or by losing respect for any religion on account of the outrages that a minority commit in its name.

We repudiate with anger the suggestion that terrorism of the kind we have seen today is done in God’s name, is countenanced by Him, or is in any way sanctified by purported religious motivation.

We offer our condolences to the grieving families and to the French people as a whole and in particular to the professionals in the worlds of journalism and cultural commentary who will rightly interpret this violence as an attack on their freedom of expression.”