Charlie Hebdo marks anniversary with anti-religious cartoon

Charlie Hebdo marks anniversary with anti-religious cartoon
“Just because you are free to offend doesn’t mean you must offend at all times”, writes Mary Kenny

It’s just been a year – on January 7 – since the terrifying, and wicked, Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, when two Muslim brothers, Chérif and Said Kouachi, opened fire at the French satirical magazine’s office, killing eight of the staff. Simultaneously, there was an attack on a Jewish kosher supermarket, and the full toll was 17 murders.

The world – including Taoiseach Enda Kenny – reacted with unstinting support for the magazine, and world leaders marched in unison under a “Je Suis Charlie” banner.

The anniversary this year was marked in a more subdued manner. It’s been a tragic 12 months for deaths from terrorism and Middle East troubles, driving so many pitiful and desperate refugees out of their homes and towards Europe.

‘Hate crimes’ against Muslims have tripled in France since the Charlie Hebdo massacre, with more than 400 ‘Islamophobic’ incidents reported by the French authorities. (Anti-Semitic attacks have also increased.)

When hate reigns, those immortal words of Sean O’Casey – a beautiful prayer, albeit composed by an Irish Communist – often come to mind: “Sacred Heart of Jesus, take away our hearts o’ stone and give us hearts o’ flesh. Take away this murdherin’ hate an’ give us Thine own eternal love!”

It is in human nature to feel the urge towards revenge, and Jihadist attacks in Paris – repeated again in November – certainly call for defence and deterrence. The first duty of any state is to protect and defend its citizens; and the first duty of the rule of law is to deflect revenge into balanced justice.

But the Charlie Hebdo editors have chosen to mark the anniversary with another strong attack on all religions, featuring a front-cover cartoon portraying God as a blood-bespattered killer carrying a Kalashnikov, with the caption: “The assassin is still out there.” Laurent Sourisseau, the cartoonist, and Eric Portheault, Charlie Hebdo financial director, claim their right to go on ‘offending’ all sensibilities through savage satire.

Freedom of expression is vital in a free society (we have seen how Christians can be denied fair access to media representation), but surely there are times when judgement must be weighed against such affirmations of freedom?

Just because you are free to offend doesn’t mean you must offend at all times.

Sometimes you have to consider your responsibilities and the possible consequences of what you say. Who shouts “fire!” in a crowded theatre, just for satire?

Charlie Hebdo was once a marginal publication whose humour was regarded as adolescent. Now it is has a worldwide circulation of over a million.

If launching yet another attack on all faiths provokes yet another round of hatred, and arouses further feelings of revenge in more young Muslims – is this admirable?

Not to me. “Je ne suis pas Charlie.”

Black pudding is a superfood!

We have become more aware of fashionable foods and trendy diets – the film actress Gwyneth Paltrow has been a leading advocate of such innovations as macrobiotic foods, gluten-free produce, almond milk, kale juice, quinoa and polenta. I can’t say that any of these strike me as particularly appetising.

But wait! The fashionable superfood predicted for 2016 is – black pudding! Now you’re talking! Black pudding is surely one of the most delicious gastronomic offerings: the French consider le boundin a delicacy and serve it with a coulis sauce.

Former minister Nora Owen often mentions that one of her great-great-aunts – also a forebear of Michael Colllins – invented the famous Clonakilty Black Pudding. If so, what a great invention!

An early start on New Year resolutions

I believe in New Year resolutions, and I believe in renewing them constantly each time we fail or fall; that is one of the messages of the New Testament.

I don’t scorn the self-help books that promise self-improvement. We should always be working on self-improvement. We are all of us our own project for constant maintenance and improvement.

On a very prosaic note, one area in which I have self-improved over the last decade is is keeping up with my taxes. I used to be one of those people who disposed of all brown envelopes from the revenue by shoving them in a file and procrastinating indefinitely about opening them.

But gradually, I’ve improved my attitude and started to tackle my tax affairs – a chaotic orchestration of bits of paper everywhere – as a January resolution. This year, I actually sat down on New Year’s Day and began organising my tax papers in a methodical manner, examining expenditure and income over the tax year 2014-15.

It is not unlike examining your conscience, actually, as you have to give an account of what you did in that 12 months, how prudently or foolishly you stewarded your resources.

Tax papers bring their own aura of philosophy. Was it the comedian W.C. Fields who said that “there are only two things certain in this life: death and taxes”?