No one at France’s national satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was laughing this week after the publication’s Paris offices were destroyed by a firebomb overnight late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning. It is believed Islamists, angry that the editors had named the Prophet Mohammad as guest “editor-in-chief” for this week’s edition, were responsible for the attack. The edition was dedicated to a satire of sharia law, but the firebomb assault took place before it had even hit the newsstands on Wednesday.
“We received threats, but no one had seen this edition,” said Stephane Charbonnier, the magazine’s designer and director. “People reacted violently to the paper yet they were completely ignorant of the edition’s contents; that is the most aberrant and idiotic.”
The leftist weekly publication, founded in 1960, came up with the idea to satirise sharia law and to honour Mohammad with the editor title after the victory of the Islamist Ennahda party in Tunisia’s election last week and the announcement sharia law would be introduced in Libya. The editors proclaimed the upcoming sharia theme in a humorous statement they released in advance that elicited “quite a few letters of protest, threats, insults,” on Twitter and Facebook.
“To fittingly celebrate the victory of the Islamist Ennhada party in Tunisia…Charlie Hebdo has asked Mohammad to be the special editor-in-chief of its next issue,” the statement read. “The prophet of Islam didn’t have to be asked twice and we thank him for it.”
When it appeared on Wednesday, the controversial edition’s front page showed a caricature of a “visibly happy” Mohammad and had him saying “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.” The edition had also had its title changed to ‘Sharia Hebdo’ and contained a women’s section called “Madame Sharia” as well as an editorial by Mohammad titled the ‘Happy Halal Hour.’ There are also two pages of cartoons with sharia law as their subject, and Mohammad appears again on the last page, wearing a clown’s nose, with, ironically, the caption: “Yes, Islam is compatible with humour.”
As it turns out, the magazine was wrong. Its headquarters were also not the only target singled out for attack. In what may have been a co-ordinated move with the firebombing, Charlie Hebdo’s website was simultaneously hacked. On Wednesday morning, its home page showed the words “no god but Allah” accompanied by a picture of the grand Mosque in Mecca with a message in English and Turkish.
“You keep abusing Islam’s almighty Prophet with disgusting and disgraceful cartoons using excuses of freedom of speech,” the message read. “Be God’s curse upon you!”
French politicians and France’s newspaper association were all quick to condemn the assault on the Charlie Hebdo offices and express solidarity with its staff. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the “…every attack against the freedom of the press must be condemned with the greatest firmness,” while the French minister of culture, Frederic Mitterand, called the assault “intolerable.
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