First, violence is never a justified response to satire, no matter how unpleasant one might find the material personally. That is, if you like, the easy bit, given that we live in a society that has determined that violence, whether committed by individuals or the State, is inappropriate except in self-defence.
My problem is with the 'right to offend' argument. I believe wholeheartedly in freedom of speech, but wonder why it is deemed appropriate to wilfully offend an entire community for having a world view that is different to yours simply for having that view. That hardly indicates a respect for diversity within your community, quite the reverse in fact. Perhaps, to be accurate, my problem is with the 'necessity to offend' and the accuracy of the targeting of that offence.
My family, or at least that on my paternal side, is part of a small religious minority in a city which has seen more than its fair share of sectarian, religion-based violence in recent years. Clashes between Hindu fundamentalists and the sizeable Muslim community in Mumbai have led to violence and death, and the attacks on the city by the Islamist terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba in 2008 did little to enhance trust on either side. So, perhaps, I am more sensitive than most about the notion of poking a community with a stick, just because you can in a free society.
In an increasingly interconnected world, material deemed offensive by a community can be shared and anger stoked up very quickly. That anger will express itself in ways that seem irrational to many of us, but are nonetheless predictable. And, if we have failed to fully integrate communities into our broader society, and make them feel inferior or threatened, such attacks feed fundamentalism and hostility towards the rest of us.
So, feel free to offend if you choose to do so but remember, the consequences may fall upon someone entirely innocent, somewhere far away. It was undoubtedly tragic that so many people, all entirely undeserving, died in such a terrible, terrifying way, for nobody deserves to die for a cartoon. Unfortunately, somewhere far away, a small Christian community are probably wondering what might happen to them tomorrow, or the day after. Nobody in the West will spend much time mourning for them, there will be no hashtag. Likewise, Muslim communities around the world will feel exposed and unsettled simply because they adhere to their faith, and some will suffer, as has been demonstrated in France already. Some will stand by them, many I hope, for most Muslims are as horrified by events in and around Paris as the rest of us are.
In a liberal democracy, we have an obligation to respect our political opponents, whilst challenging their views or their actions. In a liberal society, we have an obligation to respect and defend all law-abiding, peaceful elements of our community, and not tar all members of a particular racial or religious group on the basis of the views or actions of a possibly unrepresentative minority.
The fanatic will always find an excuse to justify his barbarism, and we should not self-censor in the hope that we might dissuade them from violence. However, we should always ask ourselves if we are doing what is necessary to dissuade those tempted by fundamentalism from succumbing. I hope that, in declaring our faith in the right to freedom of expression, we remember that with freedom comes responsibility.