Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism expressed on Wednesday its ‘full rejection and strong condemnation’ of the decision by the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s to republish ‘offensive’ cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad again.
In an official statement, the observatory said the magazine's "insistence on the criminal act of republishing the offensive cartoons fuels hate speech and inflames feelings between followers of different religions."
It charged that the magazine's move is "an unjustifiable provocation of the feelings of around two billion Muslims globally."
It added that this decision impedes global efforts led by major religious institutions aimed at establishing dialogue between religions, as exemplified in the signing of the Document of Human Fraternity between Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb and Vatican’s Pope Francis in February 2019.
The observatory's statement came hours after Charlie Hebdo republished the offensive cartoons of the Prophet, which made them the target of a January 2015 deadly terror attack by Islamist gunmen that left 12 people killed and 11 injured, including famous cartoonists.
The attackers, brothers Said and Cherif Kouchai and a third Islamist gunman, were shot dead by the police in different standoffs days after the incident.
The front cover of the new issue of Charlie Hebdo features 12 original offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, originally published in 2005 in a controversial Danish newspaper before being featured in Charlie Hebdo on the eve of the 2015 attack on their offices.
The republishing comes as 14 people go on trial in Paris Wednesday on charges of helping two Islamic jihadists carry out the attack.
The 2015 attack on the French satirical magazine was condemned at the time by Egypt's Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious centre of learning, which said "Islam denounces any violence."
Al-Azhar’s observatory reiterated today its condemnation of the 2015 attack on Charlie Hebdo’s offices, stressing Islam's "rejection to any acts of violence," while calling on the magazine’s editors to respect the beliefs of others.
The observatory called on the international community to take a firm stance against attacks on Muslim’s beliefs and symbols.
“The policy of double standards in dealing with religious followers and turning a blind eye to the crimes of the far right will only bring to humanity more hatred, extremism and terrorism,” it said.
Hebdo history of offensive cartoons
The satirical magazine had published offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad on several occasions in the past two decades, sparking anger among Muslims worldwide.
It first reprinted the Danish cartoons in 2006 then led with a controversial cover in November 2011 that led to a firebomb attack that year on its headquarters.
A Paris court rejected in 2007 a case filed by Islamic French groups accusing the publication of inciting hatred against Muslims.
Charlie Hebdo had also published other offensive cartoons of Prophet Mohammed in September 2012 and later ran a mocking cartoon biography of the Prophet in January 2013.