Tue | Nov 13, 2018

New 'Charlie Hebdo' reaches global audience, dismays Muslims

Published:Thursday | January 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM


A week ago, Charlie Hebdo was a niche publication little known outside of France, with a circulation of 60,000. Yesterday, the satirical newspaper's first issue since last week's deadly attack on its staff went on sale with an initial print run of three million copies and front-page coverage around the world.

Readers in France mobbed newsstands to buy a copy, and European newspapers reprinted Charlie Hebdo's cartoons as a gesture of solidarity. But the decision to depict the Prophet Muhammad on the cover, holding a sign saying "Je suis Charlie" (I am Charlie), angered many Muslims, who called it a renewed insult to their religion.

Many Muslims believe their faith forbids depictions of the prophet, and reacted with dismay - and occasionally anger - to the latest cover image. Some felt their expressions of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo after last week's attack had been rebuffed, while others feared the cartoon would trigger yet more violence.

"You're putting the lives of others at risk when you're taunting bloodthirsty and mad terrorists," said Hamad Alfarhan, a 29-year-old Kuwaiti doctor.

"I hope this doesn't trigger more attacks. The world is already mourning the losses of many lives under the name of religion."

Abbas Shumann, deputy to the Grand Sheik of Cairo's influential Al-Azhar mosque, said the new image was "a blatant challenge to the feelings of Muslims who had sympathised with this newspaper".

But he told The Associated Press that Muslims should ignore the cover and respond by "showing tolerance, forgiveness and shedding light on the story of the prophet". An angry reaction, he said, "will not solve the problem, but will instead add to the tension and the offence to Islam".

In Lebanon, the Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah said the depiction was "a provocation of the feelings of more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world ... and directly contributes to supporting terrorism, fanaticism and extremists".

In Jordan, the Muslim Brotherhood said it would stage a protest after Friday prayers in Amman in response to the paper's Muhammad cartoon. Spokesman Murad Adaileh said the brotherhood strongly condemned both the killings and the "offensive" against the prophet.

That was a widely expressed sentiment. Ghassan Nhouli, a grocer in the Lebanese port city of Sidon, said the magazine and the killers "are both wrong".

"It is not permitted to kill and also it is not permitted to humiliate a billion Muslims," he said.

The Iranian government has strongly condemned the killings, but Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said that in a world of widely differing cultures, "sanctities need to be respected".