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In Montmartre, overlooking Paris.
In Montmartre, overlooking Paris.
Gaëlle Dupont and Cécile Chambraud

PARIS — The terror attack against Charlie Hebdo has deeply shaken Muslims in France, and their dread is twofold. They fear not only for their own safety but also that the shooting might make it even more difficult for them to take their place in the national community, that it will fuel the rising Islamophobia that they've been denouncing.

"As a Muslim, I'm very affected by what happened," 47-year-old Abderrahim Aabid says at a gathering outside the town hall in Aulnay-sous-Bois for a moment of silence. "What they did has nothing to do with Islam. That's just barbaric."

Other Muslims who answered calls from religious associations and town hall officials to stand in unity against terror use similarly strong words to describe the terrorists, who were finally killed by police Friday: "thugs," "maniacs," "miles away from our religion."

They were neither readers nor admirers of Charlie Hebdo and its cartoonists. Still, "If you don’t agree with a drawing, you must reply with a pen. In this country, we are free," says Abderrahim Aabid.

"We've known the slaughtered cartoonists since we were kids," says Karim, a forty-something business owner. "Nobody was forced to buy Charlie. Plus, they were quite harsh on the Pope too, weren't they?"

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Geopolitics

Is Soft Power Dead?

With an activist Supreme Court creating a gap between democratic rhetoric and reality in the U.S., and Russia and China eager to flex military muscle, the full-force return to hard power looks bound for dominance.

U.S. flag and Chinese flag

Dominique Moïsi

-Analysis-

PARIS — Russia's war in Ukraine rages on, tensions are erupting in the South China Sea and now abortion rights are being stripped away in the U.S.: Looking around the world, we have to ask: what is left of the notion of soft power?

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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How can we talk about the power to convince when the power to coerce is increasingly the norm? And when there is such a gap between rhetoric and reality in the U.S. and in Russia and China, hard power almost seems to have become part of soft power?

“We will lead the world not by the example of our power, but by the power of our example,” Joe Biden said the day after his election. But what kind of example was he talking about? That of the Supreme Court’s judges, whose decision promises a terrible future to women and to all those who still wanted to believe in an enlightened and liberal America?

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