The Current

Je suis Charlie: Attack on French values inspires national solidarity

It was an attack as exacting and precise as the line on a page. Men with AK47s ambushing an editorial meeting.of journalists.wielding little more than a pen. As a nation mourns the journalists, satirists and police protectors of Charlie Hebdo, many predict the politics of France are about to be re-written, that this attack on the very symbol that defines...

It was an attack as exacting and precise as the line on a page. Men with AK47s ambushing an editorial meeting.of journalists.wielding little more than a pen. As a nation mourns the journalists, satirists and police protectors of Charlie Hebdo, many predict the politics of France are about to be re-written, that this attack on the very symbol that defines France could be a turning point for mass cultural intolerance. 

"Today the whole Republic was attacked. The Republic symbolizes freedom of expression, culture, creativity, pluralism, democracy ... that is what was targeted today by the assassins. It is the ideal of justice and peace that France has been taking everywhere on the international scene."- French President Francois Hollande

Gunmen stormed the building killing 12 people, including two policemen. Eight journalists were killed including four of the magazine's well-known cartoonists, and its editor, Stéphane Charbonnier. Mr. Charbonnier had been under police protection due to ongoing threats.

French officials say they have identified three men as suspects. They are Frenchmen Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, in their early 30s, as well as 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad.

Charlie Hebdo had stoked controversy over the years by publishing cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, and it had remained defiant even after its offices were firebombed in 2011.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across France and around the world to show their solidarity with the journalists who were killed.

Quickly the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie -- or I Am Charlie -- sprang up on twitter, with messages of solidarity.

To many, an attack on an institution like Charlie Hebdo, is a a strike against one of the founding principles of the Republic of France -- freedom of expression.

Nicolas Barre is the former Deputy Managing Editor at Le Figaro and is now the Editor-in-Chief of Les Echos. We reached him Paris.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo comes at time when tensions are already quite high in France. Far right-wing political parties have been making steady gains on the country's political stage, running -- and winning -- by drumming up fears around immigration, insecurity and threats to French identity.

The French government's own policies have also been controversial. A 2011 ban on full-face veils was decried as anti-islamic. And French streets have seen repeated race riots over the past few years.

For more on life in France today, we were joined by Valérie Amiraux. She is a professor of sociology at the University of Montreal and the Canada Research Chair for the Study of Religious Pluralism.

This segment was produced by The Current's Lara O'Brien, Catherine Kalbfleisch and Julian Uzielli.

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