There is no transferring blame away from the perpetrators of this crime.
Moderate muslims are not to blame.
It is not the disastrous invasion of Iraq, even if this gave jihadists a foothold. France, like New Zealand, didn’t support that war.
It was not France’s intervention in Mali in 2012. That was a legal intervention, sanctioned by the United Nations Security council. It was an African-led military force against al Qaeda in northern Mali, after an illegal coup toppled a democratically elected president.
The root cause is not poverty in the banlieue (suburbs) of Paris, even if the hopelessness there made for fertile recruitment to jihadism. Jihadist ideology began in the wealthy medical schools and universities of 1940s Egypt, and was later supported by the decadent Royal family of Saudi Arabia who needed an Osama bin Laden, and the extreme purity of the Wahabi clergy (who thought it God’s work to flog a woman for driving), to deflect from their excesses.
And - this must be crystal clear - Charlie Hebdo, the editorial team, the cartoonists and the staff are not to blame for their own murders.
The brave and just response to the Paris murders is to stand up for freedom of speech - no buts, no qualifiers.
Some will use the slaughter in Paris to whip up anti-Islamic sentiments. Marine Le Pen, France’s far-right leader, has already compared Muslims in France to the German occupation of the 1940s. George Packer of the New Yorker fears ‘today might very well be the day that Marine Le Pen became President of France.’
Her attempt to demonise all of Islam is tactical and ugly. The majority of muslims are peaceful and live comfortably alongside christians, jews and atheists. Anyway, the tactic of terror is to provoke a backlash against all Islam and vindicate their teaching of victimhood.
Le Pen’s views must be rejected.
But it is also true that an extremist faction of Islam does not want to live in peace and believes that purity can only be realised by killing infidels and moderate muslims.
These ideas and this barbaric strand of Islam must be named and shamed. It is just as important to stand up for the Kurdish muslim woman in combat gear fighting for her right not to wear a hijab, as it is to stand up for the right to wear one on the streets of Sydney and not be attacked.
We must also resist the weak implication in some analysis that the victims, the satirists at Charlie Hebdo, contributed in some way to the crime; that they should have thought twice before offending Islam.
Yesterday, condemning the killing, Grant Robertson said supporting freedom of expression can mean walking ‘a moral tightrope’. Challenged to explain the ‘tightrope’ he stated he was against the slaughter, but didn't identify what made this morally uncomfortable (and on Facebook commented: “Charlie Hebdo has been controversial in its cartoons and depictions, but nothing can ever justify such brutality as we have seen today.”)
To see how disturbing this is, imagine if the entire cast of 7 Days were slaughtered for laughing at extreme Islam - and he had then said “7 Days has been controversial in its comedy but…”
No one doubted Grant would be against killing. It doesn’t take much courage to oppose mass slaughter. What takes courage, and is vitally important, is to stand up for the right to offend people. Full stop.
There is no moral tightrope here. As Phil Quin said, it is a moral boulevard leading to undiluted outrage at slaughter, unqualified support for the right of satirists everywhere to lampoon the pious, powerful and stupid.
It’s easy to fight for views you agree with. Freedom to express views without fear of violence or death is about freedom to express views you don’t agree with.
Satire is nearly always bruised and bloody in a fight for freedom of speech because its role is to mock and hold the powerful to account.
Free expression is crucial to progress and civilisation because the foundation of modernity and enlightenment is the ability to express ideas that offend religions and authorities, such as that the earth goes around the sun.
We must stand up to a violent fascist faction of Islam that will kill to destroy the modern separation of church and state, because they preach that for man to rule over man is to usurp the role of God.
This is not a struggle between Islam and Christianity. It is fight between modern civilisation and barbarism.