BEIRUT: Strong condemnations of the deadly raid on the Paris office of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo by Lebanese leaders continued to pour in Thursday, as France held a day of national mourning.
Lebanese Prime Minister Tammam Salam telephoned his French counterpart, Manuel Valls, to extend his condolences. Salam expressed Lebanon’s solidarity with the French people during their ordeal, and reiterated his condemnation of the horrible crime, adding that Islam was innocent of the violent atrocities carried out in its name.
The noon attack by three gunmen, suspected to be militant Islamists taking revenge for the newspaper’s long-term satirization of Islam, left 12 dead. It constituted France’s deadliest terror attack in half a century.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said that “nothing ever justifies the barbaric and heinous crime that targeted Charlie Hebdo.”
“The time has come for an intellectual and political Islamic awakening and renaissance that will give Islam renewed credibility,” he said.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk sent a fax to his French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve, condemning the attack and reaffirming his solidarity with “free” France.
“This coward and barbaric attack not only struck at freedom of expression but also at free journalists and Islam’s moderate values,” his letter said.
Free Patriotic Movement leader Michel Aoun said in a tweet Thursday afternoon: “We deplore and condemn the terrorist act that happened in Paris, even if we were not surprised by it, since we have repeatedly warned French leaders about the inevitable expansion of terrorism to their country.”
Another top Christian leader, Lebanese Forces Chief Samir Geagea, sent a letter to Hollande Thursday denouncing the attack and describing it as a “barbaric act.”
“France will face this challenge and justice will be done. The country of human rights will remain a source of the freedom of expression.”
The Future Movement released a statement condemning the attack after a meeting at Saad Hariri’s downtown residence, calling it a “shock ... since France represents an example of forgiveness and rejection of violence.”
In a separate statement, head of the Future bloc, MP Fouad Siniora, said the perpetrators “committed a crime against humanity that isn’t justifiable by any religion and isn’t covered by any law,” adding that Islam is a “religion of forgiveness and peace that rejects violence.”
Defense Minister Samir Moqbel sent a fax to both Hollande and his French counterpart, condemning the “flagrant assault” and stressing the “necessity of cooperation to counter terrorism.”
The newspaper has been accused several times in the past of disrespecting religious communities by publishing cartoons ridiculing Prophet Mohammad and Jesus Christ, among other figures.
The attack, which saw gunmen storm the newspaper offices while reportedly shouting “Allahu akbar,” has prompted fiery debate about the relationship between terror and Islam. As a result, several prominent Lebanese religious figures also chose to tackle head-on the crime’s alleged Islamic aspect.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai called for the respect of every religion, its rituals and values, in order for the sanctity of human life to be cherished and for people to be able to live together in peace.
“The blood of the victims of yesterday’s terrorist act and the blood of victims of similar crimes compel everyone to work on building a world of brotherhood, love and peace,” he said.
“The [patriarch] offers in the name of the Maronite church his deepest and sincerest condolences to the families of the victims of the infamous crime that targeted yesterday the staff of Charlie Hebdo in Paris,” the secretariat of the Maronite Patriarchate added in a statement.
Lebanese Grand Mufti Abdel-Latif Derian, Higher Islamic Shiite Council Deputy Head Abdel-Amir Qabalan and Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Naim Hasan released a joint statement expressing their great sorrow over the “brutal and heinous crime.”
“Every crime committed in the name of religion, any religion, is an assault on that same religion and an offense to it and to all its believers,” they said.
“Those who have committed this awful massacre represent only the world of crime. Thus we call on the French authorities to chase and capture them, and put them on trial so their punishment would be a lesson to other like-minded criminals.”
Shiite scholar Sayyed Ali Fadlallah also denounced the attack. “This aggressive approach is not approved by Islam,” he said in a speech during the 28th International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran.
“It has become clear that this phenomenon, which started due to many reasons, is now a global threat,” he added, warning of the possibility of Muslims in France and elsewhere in Europe suffering backlash for this act.