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Ahmed Merabet: Protector of Charlie Hebdo, Enemy of Violent Extremism

13/01/2015 11:53 GMT | Updated 11/03/2015 09:59 GMT

The callous murder of 12 people at the offices of satirical, and often controversial, French magazine Charlie Hebdo has rightly caused much public outcry across many parts of the world. From this, a number of pertinent debates have been pushed to the fore. Some of these focus on preserving our right to freedom of speech, others outlining the chilling fact that these types of attacks are the new modus operandi for self-starter groups inspired, and sometimes trained, by organisations like al-Qaeda, ISIS and others.

Within this tragedy - which took the lives of many undoubtedly talented satirical cartoonists - is the story of fallen police officer, Ahmed Merabet. Ahmed was a Muslim and was murdered in cold blood by those claiming to be acting in the name of Islam. For some this is perplexing, though in context it is something that is actually quite common where Muslims are usually the victims. A report released by the U.S. Department of State estimated that, from 2011, '...Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years.' The frequent mass slaughter of Muslims in Syria and Iraq by ISIS, as merely one example, indicates that this is unlikely to change.

Many of these violent extreme groups consider themselves to be the 'vanguard of Islam'. They claim to be the 'market leaders' and only legitimate authority. With profound conviction they will inform their followers that they are the true voice and defenders of Islam. By instilling this conviction to their cause they attempt to dispel any confusion and uncertainty their recruits may have, not just about the group, but within their own lives and direction. Those who do not subscribe to their ideals are considered to be, on most occasions, part of the problem rather than the solution. Some of these extreme groups even claim that all Muslims who do not subscribe to their particular ideologies are part of the issue. Those like Merabet protecting the offices of Charlie Hebdo - Muslim or not - will be seen as part of the problem.

This view, importantly, also extends to other extremists, with some asserting that these alternative organisations pose a direct threat to their religion. It is simple to believe that all violent extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam are working harmoniously together to achieve mutual aims. In reality this is far from true. Although they may well share similar goals, their methods of achieving these goals, and thus the core ideologies of the groups, will differ. As well as this, these groups thrive on the excitement of being the market leaders and being feared around the world. Thus, there is much disdain and competition that exists between many of these types of violent extremists. The recent tension between al-Qaeda and ISIS merely highlights this. However, there cannot be complacency with this as relationships may well change.

What will stay the same is that organisations like Charlie Hebdo will unfortunately remain targets. Even though I am not Muslim, or had any of my religion's deities satirised by the paper, I find some of the work they publish to be in bad taste. It is my right to feel this way as it is their right to publish it. I cannot speak for Ahmed Merabet, but as a Muslim he may well have been offended by some of Charlie Hebdo's material. Regardless of this, he still gave his life to protect their right to free speech. In my opinion, this attitude is something we can all learn from.