France is still reeling from the twin attacks – one on the Paris offices of a satirical magazine, the other on a kosher grocery in the French capital – that claimed 17 lives over a period of three days. Millions have been marching in France and around the world, demanding an end to extremist violence. They have been joined by leaders from a large number of countries – 44 heads of state, to be exact, who linked arms late last week with French President Francois Hollande in solidarity.
But the commemorations, solemn though they were, were not devoid of controversy. US President Barack Obama, for one, got plenty of bad press for failing to send a high-ranking official to attend Sunday’s historic march. The Saudi and Turkish representatives, meanwhile, were singled out for attending the march among the leaders of the free world – a “questionable,” “awkward” move in light of their own countries’ penchants for suppressing free speech, jailing journalists and, in Turkey’s case, allowing radicalized militants of the type responsible for the Paris attacks to move freely through its borders en route to Syria.
The Western press was relatively silent on Iran, which did not appear to have sent a representative to attend the rally – and, according to one source, banned a local vigil in honor of the victims. While Tehran vocally condemned the attacks, it followed in the footsteps of Turkish, Russian and other conspiracy theorists – including a large swath of the Middle Eastern press – in asserting that the blame for them lies with the West. The reasons cited, though varied, were invariably contrived: the West is taking “advantage of free speech” to “insult divine religions;” the West has “double standards” on extremism (because it allows free speech, a form of extremism tantamount to terrorism); the West is funding terrorist attacks; France is supporting ISIS.
To get a more complete the picture, we turned to Iranian proxy Hezbollah, whose mouthpiece Al-Manar carried an article on Iran’s denunciation of the attack. “Iran Denounces ‘Terrorist Attack’ in Paris,” read the headline of the article, which placed the heinous Charlie Hebdo shooting in quotation marks throughout – doubting that it could be called terrorism, maybe, or perhaps doubting that it had taken place at all.
It is exactly this stance that Frenchmen and women of all faiths said this week as one that they would not be intimidated by – wounded, bleeding, but with their heads held high.