The #JesuisCharlie hashtag went viral as a symbol of solidarity for the slain, with many linking it to this quote often attributed to 17th century French writer Voltaire: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend to death your right to say it."
Ahmed Merabet was shot at point blank range on the pavement outside the newspaper’s Paris offices. Now a new slogan paying tribute to him - and his sacrifice - is gathering steam.
Merabet, an officer in the 11th arrondissement brigade, and widely described by local media as a married man and a Muslim, was murdered despite raising his hand in a gesture of surrender.
The tweet reads: “I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so. #JesuisAhmed”
It is believed to have been started by Dyab Abou Jahjah, an Arab political activist, the founder and leader of the Arab European League, a pan-Arabist movement that supports the interests of Muslim immigrants in Europe.
I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so. #JesuisAhmed— Dyab Abou Jahjah (@Aboujahjah) January 8, 2015
Abou Jahjah’s message had been retweeted 2,300 times within three hours on Thursday.
Columnist John Rentoul was one who retweeted, though it was greeted with disapproval by some, who branded it "offensive." Aaron Hicklin replied: “Ahmed died doing his job. As did the journalists at Charlie Hebdo.”
Simon G Khoury argued: “The fact he had to die defending someone’s right to criticise a culture/religion says a lot about the latter,” while Geize Stella stated: “If your religion is so fragile that does not support a joke, the problem is their religion, not the comedian.”
Richard Young said: “Baffling to see how many people appear to misunderstand your tweet! It’s a very positive, unifying statement.”
Merabet was one of 12 people killed in the attack
Cartoonists Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, 47, Jean “Cabu” Cabut, 76, Bernard “Tignous” Verlhac, 57, Georges Wolinski, 80, and Philippe Honore, 73, were killed as well as magazine columnist and economist Bernard Maris, 68, and proof-reader Mustapha Ourrad. Psychoanalyst and columnist Isa Cayat was the only woman killed in the shoot-out. Arts festival founder Michel Renaud and caretaker Frederic Boisseau were also murdered.
Another officer, Franck Brinsolaro, was also shot dead.
The magazine's offices were firebombed in November 2011 after it published a spoof issue that "invited" Muhammad to be its guest editor and put his caricature on the cover.
A year later, the magazine published more Muhammad drawings amid an uproar over an anti-Muslim film.
The cartoons depicted Muhammad naked and in demeaning or pornographic poses. As outraged grew, the French government defended free speech even as it rebuked Charlie Hebdo for fanning tensions.
A massive manhunt for two suspects, brothers Said Kouachi and Cherif Kouachi, is ongoing.
According to media reports, Kouachi, 32, was first considered to be a possible terrorist by the French authorities when he was in his early 20s.
He is believed to have come under the influence of a radical Paris-based Islamic preacher and was reportedly convicted of a criminal charge in 2008 after associating with an illegal organisation backing jihad in Iraq.
Kouachi, originally from the Paris suburb of Pantin, was sentenced to three years in prison with 18 months suspended.
Unconfirmed reports also suggest that the attack could be linked with Yemen-based militant group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Intelligence sources are said to believe that the brothers might have trained in Yemen.
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