The French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has spent a good portion of the past 44 years gleefully aiming its poison pens at the world's sacred cows. It's taken on the elite and the powerful, the corrupt and the unjust, and it's done it all in the name of using its absurdist sense of humor to knock down to size those who deserve to be. It's a publication that's as fearless as it is funny, evidenced by its willingness to use laughter as a weapon against radical Islam. Over the past decade, it's published several cartoons that not only depict images of the Prophet Muhammad -- considered blasphemy in Islam, punishable by death -- but take it one step further, openly ridiculing both the religious icon and the obsession of some of his followers with honoring to the point of madness the tenets of a book of stories published 1,400 years ago.
Because of that willingness to refuse to cower before a deity and religion they didn't believe in, the editors and cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo have been the targets of attacks by extremists and have lived under the constant threat of violence. And yet, despite that, they never relented, continuing to satirize Islam -- and many other faiths, to be fair -- simply because they knew doing so was not only the purest and most necessary expression of freedom, but it was fun. It was fun to take jabs at subjects that people with no sense of humor decreed they weren't allowed to take jabs at.
This morning in Paris, 12 people died for that freedom. They were killed in an attack by gunmen claiming to be affiliated with al Qaeda, gunmen who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo shouting, "Allah hu-Akbar," and executed ten people, including two police officers who tried to stop them. Among the members of the Charlie Hebdo staff murdered were some of its most famous cartoonists, people who drew the very images that so infuriated Muslim extremists. These extremists demanded that Charlie Hebdo not publish images of the Prophet Muhammad -- and the newspaper did it anyway. These extremists demanded that even those who don't believe in their faith submit to it -- and Charlie Hebdo said, basically, "Fuck you."
The best way to both honor the memory of those killed today and to take a stand for all that Charlie Hebdo has stood for is to publish -- over and over again -- the images that led to today's violence. It's a cliché to say that this is what they don't want you to see, but it's never been more true. This isn't simply what they don't want you to see -- it's what they'll kill to stop you from seeing. But in the age of social media, they can't stop this. No matter what they do. They can't kill everyone.
Je suis Charlie.
This was tweeted out this morning by Charlie Hebdo. It's the leader of ISIS and the staff offers him "best wishes."
From October of last year. Muhammad being beheaded by an ISIS fighter. He's shouting, "I'm the prophet, you asshole," while his killer says back, "Shut your trap, infidel."
2011: Muhammad "guest edits" Charlie Hebdo. Translation: "100 lashes if you don't die laughing." This likely led the newspapers office to be firebombed a few weeks later.
The follow-up cover to the Muhammad edition. Translation: "Love is stronger than hate."
As a response to the Muslim reaction to The Innocence of Muslims, a cheap movie that was allegedly the impetus for the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Charlie Hebdo published this: Muhammad posing for a camera. On the left, the caption reads, "A star is born"; on the right, it reads, "The film that will set the Muslim world on fire." Muhammad is saying in the shot, "My ass? You love my ass?"
This cover references the French film, The Intouchables. Translation: "Shouldn't laugh."
In 2006, following the publication of the images of Muhammad in the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten, which set off a firetorm of outrage, Charlie Hebdo republished the images and slapped this cover on the issue. Here, Muhammad is saying, "It's hard to be loved by these idiots."
In 2002, the paper ran this: a cartoon depicting Muhammad picking "Miss Potato Sack."
Translation: "Charlie Hebdo must be censored."
RELATED: Today's attack shows that, whether you choose to accept it or not, Islamic fundamentalism in the 21st century simply isn't like that of every other faith. It also proves how humor is one of the most dangerous weapons on earth.