Charlie Hebdo Mohammed cover goes global but draws Muslim ire

AFP , Tuesday 13 Jan 2015

A man takes a picture at Place de la Republique of a sign reading "I Am Charlie" after a rally in Paris, France, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015 (Photo: AP)

Charlie Hebdo's new cover of a crying Prophet Mohammed above the slogan "All is Forgiven" was reproduced by media around the world Tuesday -- but some Muslims saw it as blasphemy.

The front page of the French satirical magazine -- its first since many of its staff were slain in a jihadist attack last week that left 12 people dead -- was widely taken up by media in Western nations and in Latin America.

It shows Mohammed on a green background under the title "All is forgiven", holding up a sign saying "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie").

Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Renald "Luz" Luzier said "I cried" after drawing it.

But Egypt's Islamic authority, Dar al-Ifta, quickly denounced it as "an unjustified provocation against the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims".

Violent riots broke out in Egypt and other Muslim countries in early 2006 over Mohammed caricatures first printed by a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, and republished by Charlie Hebdo.

Tabnak, a conservative online outlet in Iran, an Islamic republic notorious for throwing many journalists in jail, stormed that "Charlie Hebdo has again insulted the Prophet".

Major media in many Arab, and some African and Asian countries as well as Turkey, did not show the cover because many devout Muslims view any depiction of their prophet as forbidden.

Charlie Hebdo is to print up to three million copies of its new "survivors' issue", due out Wednesday -- far more than the usual 60,000 before last week's attack by two Islamist gunmen brought it worldwide prominence, and a historic record for a French publication. Money from sales will go the victims' families.

French, Italian and Turkish versions will be printed, while translations in three other languages -- English, Spanish and Arabic -- will be offered in electronic form, editor-in-chief Gerard Biard told a Paris news conference.

"Turkey is in a difficult period and secularity there is under attack," Biard said, explaining why the Turkish version was "the most important".

A Charlie Hebdo columnist, Patrick Pelloux, had previously said the edition would be available in 16 languages. There was no immediate word why that ambition had been scaled back.

The issue will include caricatures by its five murdered cartoonists.

An advance copy obtained by AFP contained cartoons mocking the two Islamists who carried out the attack. One has them arriving in paradise and asking, "Where are the 70 virgins?"

"With the Charlie team, losers," comes the reply.

The remaining Charlie Hebdo staff who put the issue together said putting Mohammed on the cover showed they would not "cede" to extremists wanting to silence them.

Yet the fact that many non-European outlets did not reproduce the front page cartoon revealed unease about the magazine being elevated to a global champion for freedom of expression.

The French publication earned broad sympathy after the bloody attack, but some voiced reservations -- or criticism -- about the role now attributed to it.

Major Arab broadcasters Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera did not show the cover in their reports.

Leaked internal e-mails from Qatar-based Al-Jazeera have revealed a debate between its Arabic- and English-language employees about whether Charlie Hebdo and the "Je Suis Charlie" slogan should symbolise free speech.

Most French media outlets, including newspapers Le Monde, Liberation, Le Figaro, published images of the Charlie Hebdo cover.

The rector of Paris's mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, urged France's Muslims "to remain calm" over the cover "by avoiding emotional reactions... and respecting freedom of opinion".

The head of a big mosque in central eastern Paris, Hammad Hammami, voiced a similar stand. "We don't want to throw oil on the fire," he said. "We consider these caricatures to be acceptable. They are not degrading for the Prophet," unlike previous Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

The cover was widely reproduced across Europe but some Western outlets showed more caution.

In Denmark, for instance, the Jyllands-Posten newspaper that triggered 2006 riots with its Mohammed cartoons did not reproduce the Charlie Hebdo cover.

Britain's The Independent newspaper was the only major daily in London to put the image in its print version. The Telegraph's website cropped the cover to cut out Mohammed. The BBC news website did not show it.

The Guardian newspaper's website included it with its report, but warned: "This article contains the image of the magazine cover, which some may find offensive."

A British radical preacher, Anjem Choudary, who is under investigation for militancy, branded the new publication an "act of war" and a "blatant provocation".

Almost none of the newspapers in Italy and in Russia carried the cover image.

Many US news media showed prudence. The New York Times website reported on the Mohammed cover but provided readers only with a link to the site of the French newspaper Liberation. Major television networks also did not reproduce the cover.

The Wall Street Journal, though, did, and so did tabloids such as the New York Daily News.

According to the French press distribution company MLP, the new Charlie Hebdo issue will be available in many countries that previously never received the weekly, including Australia -- where strong demand was reported -- and in India, where there are around 170 million Muslims.

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