This image was grabbed from French tv's helicopter coverage of the Paris demonstration.
The centre is a mass of people slowly moving towards Place de la Republique, just off the top of the picture.  The stone, cenotaph-like structure in the middle is the Porte St Denis, one of the ancient gateways in to Paris.  The flat I stay in when I'm in Paris is in shot, just to the left of the Porte.

This picture, and the one below, is of Place des Terreaux in beautiful Lyon later on Sunday.  Again, it is crammed with people - 350,000 of them packed into the city centre.  Lyon's art gallery is on the left.  Ironically, the floodlit fountain on the right was designed by the same man who designed the Statue of Liberty.
My amazing friend...
...and his home-grown solidarity
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Two weeks have passed since the murderous atrocities in Paris and already the cause of ultimate freedom of expression seems to have been lost. 

It didn’t take long at all for the world’s politicians to hijack the popular mass surge of sorrow, protest and quiet horror in France and shape it to their pernicious ends by identifying with its sentiments in favour of free speech and against murder and violence.  This was specially evident at the breathtakingly moving public march in Paris three days after the first murders.

There in the crowd, waving and smiling, was Isreal’s Benjamin Netanyahu.  His vigorous pro-peace stance must must have interested the many Palestinians sitting in the rubble of their homes, mourning the loss of friends and family.

The callous and almost unimaginably cruel regime of Saudi Arabia was represented on the march in Paris, too.  Raif Badawi will have appreciated that.  He has recently been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison in Saudi Arabia for publishing a liberal website.

The Russian foreign minister was there, too.  Russia still habitually arrests and jails anyone who voices criticism of Vladimir Putin, in writing, cartoon, song or street protest.

Egypt’s government has jailed Al Jazeera journalists who have been rude about them - but that didn’t stop the Egyptian foreign minister from marching in favour of freedom of expression.  Je suis Charlie mais je ne suis pas Al Jazeera.

There really is no depth to which these shameless and cruel people will not sink.  Their mephitic presence besmirched what was otherwise an emotional and deeply-felt popular protest of defiance and determination.  They happily and hypocritically joined a protest which they would almost certainly have banned in their own countries.

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The cause is lost in other ways, too.

Already, mealy-mouthed pundits are giving voice to their sickening appeasement throughout the media.  We’re being told that people’s ‘sincerely-held religious beliefs’ should never be ridiculed, that the Parisian cartoonists should not have been surprised by the Muslim attack last week - and even, from some quarters, that they ‘kind of’ got what they deserved.

Self-censorship is in full swing.  Although Charlie Hebdo’s satirical images of Catholicism, Judaism, Hinduism and even Buddhism have been shown by the media, no-one has put their head above the parapet and shown the abusive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, whose murderous thugs have thus achieved their aim.

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo - an openly anti-religious magazine - described themselves as ‘addicted to the pleasure of displeasing’.  No institution, however lofty, self-satisfied or even sacred, should be beyond pillory, satire and ridicule.
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There is one final, and much more personal, aspect to all this.

Islam is the most viciously and vindictively homophobic religion on Earth.  Many of the ‘moderate’ Muslims with whom I come into daily contact would quite happily stand by and watch me get stoned to death or beheaded for being gay.  Given a free hand and a mask, they would probably take part themselves.

For many, many gay men, the very idea of a ‘moderate Muslim’ is as ludicrous as the notion of a ‘moderate Nazi’.
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Serge est Charlie
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Serge said...

Merci pour ce Blog dédié à Charlie...
je suis touché...
et comblé de savoir que tu est route pour la France.

Bentonbag said...

So well written ...
but incredibly sad

Ellie said...

Yes, well said, Ian and a pity your blog isn't on the front page of all our Newspapers.... so very sad that twofaced politicians take advantage of such a devastating atrocity.