We Are Charlie; We Are Copenhagen; We Are Halifax

by | February 17, 2015

Anyone who has been following the news knows

Two people have been killed and five injured in twin shootings in the Danish capital [Copenhagen], with one attack targeting a cultural centre hosting a debate on Islam and free speech and the other a synagogue.

What may be less well known is

Nova Scotia police say a tip helped them stop a plot to kill a large number of people in Halifax on Saturday. . . .a man and woman planned to go to a public venue in the Halifax region on Feb. 14 “with a goal of opening fire to kill citizens, and then themselves.”

In both cases, politicians in Copenhagen and Halifax have made statements about the motivation behind the attacks.

“Denmark and France are the same nations, feeling the same sadness but also the same will to resist, fight and defeat terrorism,” French President Francois Hollande said.


[Danish] Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said the attacks were terrorism but said this was not the start of a war between the West and Islam.

In Halifax, Justice Minister Peter MacKay

insisted the alleged plot had no terrorist underpinnings, appeared to be random and without any specific philosophy, though he suggested the suspects could be radicalized.

While the foiled plot in Halifax is not considered “a terrorism threat,” it was and is a terrifying episode in Halifax’s history. This is why CFI Canada, in its message of “condolences to all people affected by yet another act of senseless violence, this time in Copenhagen,” goes on to say “CFIC condemns all violence perpetuated by individuals or groups.”

Others are not so straightforward and choose to qualify their condemnation of violence. In an article in the Guardian, Hugh Muir maintains, “Our response to the Copenhagen attacks will define us” and goes on remind us of our “obligations” and “responsibilities” in a paragraph that can be summarized in a few words: don’t be responsible for provoking violence:

We are in perilous territory. Slaughter as political protest cannot be defended. Free speech as legal and moral pre-requisites in a free society must be defended. But there are also other obligations to be laid upon those who wish to live in peaceful, reasonably harmonious societies. Even after Paris, even after Denmark, we must guard against the understandable temptation to be provocative in the publication of these cartoons if the sole objective is to establish that we can do so. With rights to free speech come responsibilities.

Publishing “these cartoons” is not the only act that provokes violence, and if we stop disseminating cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, if we give in to religious and radicalized fanatics, if we moderate our expression to appease those who may be offended, then we will have put limits on free speech and accept that blasphemy is a crime, not a right. No, Mr. Muir, we will not do that. Our response to the Copenhagen attacks is to work to abolish blasphemy laws.

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