Charlie Hebdo is releasing a new version of its irreverent and often offensive newspaper, defiantly putting a caricature of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover that drew immediate criticism and threats of more violence.
The newspaper also skewered other religions among its normal targets, and ran a double-page spread illustrating Sunday’s march in Paris that drew more than a million people to condemn terrorism, claiming that the turnout was larger “than for Mass”.
Twelve people died when two masked gunmen assaulted the newspaper’s offices in the French capital last week, including much of the editorial staff and two police officers.
It was the beginning of three days of terror around Paris that saw 17 people killed before the three Islamic extremist attackers were gunned down by security forces.
Charlie Hebdo planned an unprecedented print run of three million copies of the latest issue, which is out tomorrow. The surviving staff members are using the offices of the Liberation newspaper, which has loaned out space.
Charlie Hebdo had faced repeated threats and a firebombing for depictions of the prophet, and its editor and his police bodyguard were the first to die. Many Muslims believe all images of the prophet are blasphemous.
The latest cover shows a weeping Prophet Mohammed, holding a sign reading “I am Charlie” with the words “All is forgiven” above him. Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist with the newspaper, said the cover meant the journalists are forgiving the extremists for the attack.
Renald Luzier, the cartoonist who drew the cover image under the pen name Luz said it represents “just a little guy who’s crying”. Then he added, unapologetically: “Yes, it is Mohammed.”
Before the new edition was even released, one of Egypt’s top Islamic authorities had warned Charlie Hebdo against publishing more cartoons of the prophet. Dar al-Ifta, which is in charge of issuing religious edicts, called the planned cover an “unjustified provocation” for millions of Muslims who respect and love their prophet and warned the cartoon would likely spark a new wave of hatred.
Indeed, criticism and threats immediately appeared on militant websites, with calls for more strikes against the newspaper and anonymous threats from radicals, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a US-based terrorism monitor.
The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo maintained the intentionally offensive tone that made the newspaper famous in France. The first two pages included drawings by the slain cartoonists: one showed a much-loved late French nun talking about oral sex; another showed Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders dividing up the world.
The lead editorial laid out a vigorous defence of secularism, and of the newspaper’s right to lampoon religions and hold their leaders accountable – and ended with a critique of the pope.
“For the past week, Charlie, an atheist newspaper, has achieved more miracles than all the saints and prophets combined,” it read. “The one we are most proud of is that you have in your hands the newspaper that we always made.”
But most of the controversy centred on the cover and its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.
Around the world, news organisations took different approaches to illustrating stories about the Charlie Hebdo cover. In the United States, a CBS programme and The New York Post ran images of the cover, while the ABC network did not.
The New York Times also did not publish it, but included a link to it. CNN did not show the cover online or on the air.
The Associated Press had not run previous Charlie Hebdo cartoons showing Mohammed, and declined to run the latest one as well, based on its policy to avoid images designed to provoke on the basis of religion.
In Europe, Spain’s leading daily newspapers published the image online and the state broadcaster showed it on news bulletins.
In Britain, The Times, the Guardian and the Independent went with the image, while The Daily Telegraph did not. The BBC showed the new cover on news programmes.
Germany’s Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Der Spiegel and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung all used it on their websites.