Henri Astier at The Times Literary Supplement:
The French are not given to outbursts of patriotic fervour. This makes the reaction to the carnage at Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher supermarket in Paris in January all the more extraordinary. In the biggest wave of demonstrations the country has ever seen, more than 4 million people marched to honour the victims. For the first time since Armistice Day 1918, the Marseillaise was sung at the National Assembly. “Je suis Charlie” became the rallying cry of a nation seemingly united around the basic “republican” values of secularism, tolerance and free expression.
It soon emerged, however, that not everyone in France was Charlie. In areas with large Muslim populations, few mourned journalists who had insulted the Prophet. Many supporters of the far-right Front National (FN) also begged to differ. To them, the fact that the political establishment, Left and Right, rallied in support of an offensive magazine run by leftovers from the 1960s epitomized everything that was wrong with the country.
The pro-Charlie camp was unsettled by these cracks in the consensus. They appeared at a time when radical Islam is on the rise in immigrantbanlieues and the FN is threatening the pro-EU order. But in a way, the naysayers helped galvanize the “Je suis Charlie” mainstream. They could be dismissed as Islamists or fascists. Either way, they had no place in a modern, secular, liberal country. The true people of France had to strike an even stronger blow for the République.