Following the deadly January 7, 2015 attack at the office of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly in Paris, several new hashtags in Arabic were tweeted tens of thousands of times on Twitter - including #Charlie Hebdo, #Paris Is Burning, #Vengeance For [Insulting] The Prophet, #France Attack Is Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Messenger, and #The Lone Wolves Are Terrorizing France.
Many of those tweeting the hashtags, some of them supporters of the global jihad, including Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda, welcomed the attack and justified it as vengeance for the weekly's insult to the Prophet Muhammad, that is, its publication of cartoons mocking him. Many praised the attackers, calling them heroes, and even warned that similar attacks would be coming soon. Others rejected the claim that the publication of cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad constituted freedom of expression; some even quoted the late Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's statements threatening attacks in response to the freedom to insult Islam.
In contrast, many condemned the attack, calling the perpetrators' crime despicable, not representative of the true Islam, and a distortion of the image of Islam and Muslims in the West. They also condemned the extremist Muslims who are encouraging such actions.
This paper will review tweets published under these hashtags on January 7-8, 2015. It should be noted that these are tweets by individuals and that official reactions to the attack in the Arab media will be reviewed in an upcoming MEMRI report.
Revenge For Cartoons Of The Prophet Muhammad: 'This Is The Punishment Of Anyone Insulting The Prophet'
As noted, among the hashtags launched on Twitter were #Vengeance For [Insulting] The Prophet and #France Attack Is Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Messenger. Many users who rejoiced at the attack said that it was vengeance for Charlie Hebdo's cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which constituted a grievous insult.
"New_sharurah2" tweeted: "We have not avenged the [insult] to the Prophet, but have [only] begun our vengeance. This vengeance will be incomplete until we have exterminated them and all their governments. Allah is fighting them and has humiliated them. #Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Prophet."
Dr. Jassem Al-Kenane tweeted: "As vengeance for the [insult] to the prophet, France's jihad fighters carried out an attack. Anyone who attacks the Messenger of Allah will receive more than that in return. #Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Prophet"
@qazpjQ tweeted: "#Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Prophet. Our Prophet Muhammad PBUH must not be mocked; our religion must not be mocked; we have brought you people who love martyrdom while you love life; you have been warned"
"Abu 'Ahed" tweeted: "Paris is burning, and Europe trembles! Because he who displays hostility towards the best of creation [i.e. the Prophet Muhammad] - his life is in danger. #Charlie Hebdo #Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Prophet"
@ymn8888 tweeted: "#France Attack Is Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Messenger. Anyone who permits himself to curse Allah or our Prophet PBUH [must know] that Islam [today] has a state [i.e. ISIS] and that it will not let him go unpunished."
@ra29is tweeted: "He who was silent when they mocked the Prophet, and did not care, is the same as he who hastened to condemn and denounce the vengeance against them when it came. #Charlie Hebdo, #Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Prophet"
Praising The Perpetrators, Justifying The Attack, Threats Of Additional Attacks
Many tweets expressed joy at the attack, praised the attackers as "heroes," "men," and "knights of Islam." Some threatened additional attacks in the near future, stating that "this is just the beginning"; others expressed rage that the West allows insults to Islam on the pretext of "freedom of expression" and accused it of hypocrisy.
One tweet included the photos of two of the perpetrators, and added, "About them, we will say that they are men. #Charlie Hebdo"
@Is_omar88 tweeted a photo of the attackers in action, and wrote: "May your hands be blessed, knights of Islam. #Paris Is Burning"
@alfreed2022 tweeted: "They [Charlie Hebdo cartoonists] attacked our honorable Prophet, and therefore Allah brought them [punishment] that they never thought of..Praised be Allah who has shown us a black day for them. I am nearly beside myself with happiness. #Charlie Hebdo"
"Mohand" tweeted: "No condemnation or denunciation... I am pleased. #Charlie Hebdo"
"Ibrahim Al-Adawi" tweeted: "The #Charlie Hebdo operation is only a headline for what is yet to come..."
Al-Nusra Al-Maqdasiyya, a Twitter account of ISIS supporters in Gaza, commented: "#France Attack Is Vengeance For [Insulting] Allah's Messenger - [this attack] was not the last!! Every Crusader country must prepare to receive its share in the sacred vengeance operations... Wait!"
@Saidboragba tweeted, "THE FIGHTING HAS JUST BEGUN #Paris Is Burning" along with an image captioned, "By Allah, the fighting begins right now. #Charlie Hebdo"
Another tweet featured an image of an ISIS flag with the Eifel Tower in the background, the hashtag #Paris Is Burning" and the caption "We are everywhere" in English and French
@aliexex11 tweeted: "I am praying, say Amen: Allah, protect the jihad fighters. Allah, protect them with your never-closing eye. Allah, direct their shooting and make Paris catch fire. #Paris Is Burning." The tweet included an image from the footage of the attackers shooting a Paris police officer during the attack.
"Abu Al-Qassem Al-Najdi" tweeted: "#Charlie Hebdo. Paris is burning against the followers of Christianity. May everyone know that we will avenge [the insult] to our religion, whether it takes a long time or a very short time"
"Miraa" tweeted: There is no tolerance for anyone harming the Prophet, PBUH. Oh stupid Arabs, apology and [your] exaggerated [attempts at] idealism are what caused the West to tread on us. #Charlie Hebdo"
@sshm_0 tweeted: "#Paris Is Burning. Crusader France has banned the hijab, fought the Muslims in Mali and Afghanistan, and been hostile towards Islam and its people, and made things difficult for them..."
"Abu Moussa Al-Shami" tweeted: "To reiterate the words of Osama bin Laden, Allah have mercy upon him: 'If there is no limit to your freedom of expression, may your hearts also expand [to accept] our freedom of action "
"Abu Omar" tweeted: "If your insult to our religion and our Prophet PBUH is [part of] freedom of thought and expression, then may your hearts also expand [to accept] our freedom of action and our ways of expression! #Charlie Hebdo"
@al_barqy tweeted: "I want to thank the heroes who carried out the massacre of the infidels who insulted our Prophet Muhammad PBUH. We are sick of the hypocrisy and the fake humanitarianism. #Charlie Hebdo"
Dr. Salim Al-Khammash tweeted: "Hypocrisy, hypocrisy. High-flown talk about freedom of expression and they insult the Prophet and religions on this pretext. However, they imprison those who doubt the scope of the Jewish Holocaust. What kind of contradiction is that?! #Charlie Hebdo"
He added, in a subsequent tweet: "Holocaust denial gets you in prison in Germany, France, Belgium, America, Switzerland, and Israel. What freedom [of expression] are they bragging about [?] Do they condemn Israel's crimes? #Charlie Hebdo"
Abdallh Al-Abdani tweeted: "The Jewish lobby continues to insult Islam and the Muslims - [are the ones] who are apologizing!!! #Charlie Hebdo"
Denouncing The Attack - It Does Not Represent Islam
In contrast, many used the same hashtags to denounce the attack, stating that it does not represent the true Islam and even distorts the image of Islam and the Muslims in the West. Following are examples:
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi tweeted: "The attackers at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper shouted 'We have avenged the Prophet Muhammad.' Allah will denounce you, do not use your terrorism in the name of my beloved Prophet Muhammad... [the] Prophet of mercy #Charlie Hebdo"
Khashoggi subsequently criticized those who justified the attack, tweeting: "Those who justify the killing and the takfir will try today to justify the #Charlie Hebdo attack... Our battle with terrorism is long, as long as some of us justfy it [i.e. terrorism]"
@SamaaYahoo responded to claims that the attack was vengeance for the insult to the Prophet, tweeting: " This is not #Vengeance For [Insulting] The Prophet. If you understood the religion of the Prophet properly, you would not act this way. Then you still ask why the West says that the Muslims are terrorists"
@Daikirik tweeted about the claim that the attack was vengeance for the insult to the Prophet Muhammad: "#Vengeance For [Insulting] The Prophet. They did not take vengeance for [the insult to] the Prophet - they slaughtered [the image of] Islam and of the Muslims in the West"
@Majid_Alhazmi tweeted: "#Charlie Hebdo. This attack in no way represents Islam and the Muslims. We ask the mighty Allah to grant victory to Islam and its people who are moderate everywhere"
Ibrahim Al-Musalem tweeted a clip from YouTube showing cleric Muhammad Al-'Arifi saying that the Prophet Muhammad would kill anyone who opposed him, and wrote: "Then they wonder where these ideas came from"
Dr. 'Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Qenaei pointed at the hypocrisy of the Muslim preachers living in Europe, tweeting: "The preachers in the mosques in Europe and Paris enjoy the good things that Western democracy brings. But ultimately, their prayers fall upon the West as curses, invective, and [wishes] for its perdition #Charlie Hebdo"
Some expressed shock that murder was committed because of cartoons. Saudi journalist and columnist for the Saudi government daily 'Okaz Khalaf Al-Harbi tweeted: "The killing of the journalists is a despicable crime. Words are answered with words, not bullets"
"Saudi Atheist" wrote: "#Charlie Hebdo... The newspaper [published] cartoons mocking Christianity and Judaism - why do only the Muslims kill?"
@Safa_78 tweeted: "#Vengeance For [Insulting] The Prophet. Did those cartoons make a child die of cold or hunger? Did they harm anyone? Did they cause murder or expulsion, as the [preachers'] pulpits of incitement have?"
@LinaMaani tweeted: "Killing innocent people just because you don't agree with them shows how inhuman and far from Islam you are "#Vengeance For [Insulting] The Prophet"
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