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'Aujourd'hui nous sommes tous français'

When I lived in France, I loved the hard-hitting satire and gross, offensive cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. In that era, the late 1990s, the weekly newspaper was under the leadership of Philippe Val. Although Val left Charlie Hebdo in 2009, he was the editor who decided to republish those controversial cartoons of Muhammad, originally published by a Danish newspaper, that so angered the extremists who carried out a cold-blooded assassination at Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris on Wednesday. Back then, Val successfully fought a lawsuit, brought by the Grande Mosquée de Paris, that sought to prohibit his newspaper from publishing offensive cartoons -- effectively to return censorship to the free nation of France. Val won that lawsuit, dedicating his victory to all moderate Muslims of the world, and his colleagues at Charlie Hebdo, unbowed, continued to keep that right of free expression alive. As Bernard-Henri Lévy wrote in his book Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism (the English version of Ce grand cadavre à la renverse), that lawsuit, along with several other events he listed, should have provoked a nation-wide protest movement in France against the encroachment of religious radicalism on a free society. One can only hope that the outrage expressed around the world will change enough minds for good.

Charlie Hebdo, for its part, will publish its next issue next Wednesday. See also: Philip Gourevitch, Philip Kennicott.

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