A sharpened pencil forced into the twisted barrel of a Kalashnikov rifle — that is the image with which Lebanese cartoonist Armand Homsi of the Al-Nahar daily expressed his rage over the murders at the offices of theCharlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.
Al-Nahar’s founding editor-in-chief, Gebran Tueni, and its star columnist, Samir Kassir, were assassinated in 2005 by Syrian agents.
In its editorial on Thursday the newspaper said: “All the murdered journalists are a torch lighting the way for other journalists. No matter how hard they try to silence the media, the written word will remain a ticking bomb that will one day blow up in the faces of terrorism and the terrorists.”
More than 60 journalists were killed while on the job in 2014, some on the battlefield and others slaughtered by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. While dying in a war zone is accepted as an occupational hazard, murder by Islamist organizations is seen as part of radical Islam’s culture war with the West.
“What happened in Paris is a French attack on France,” Lebanese columnist Amar Mohsen tried to explain the murder cause. The murderers are French citizens who grew up in a culture that couldn’t contain them and excluded them. It is not necessary to agree with this explanation, although one of the suspects, Cherif Kouachi, was sentenced to three years in prison in France in 2008 for his part in sending volunteer combatants to Iraq. He was released after 18 months and two years later he was arrested again on suspicion of smuggling the Algerian Islamist Ismail Belkacem out of prison. Belkacem was serving a life term for his part in attacking a Paris Metro station in 1995.
Kouachi and his brother Said should have been under the watchful eye of the French intelligence services all along. Now they are symbols of a radical Islam that foments what used to be called “global jihad,” as though it were a divine force, unlike the “ordinary” terror organizations that spring up in every state.