Charlie Hebdo reaches global audience, dismays Muslims
London — A week ago, Charlie Hebdo was a niche publication little known outside France, with a circulation of 60,000. On Wednesday the satirical newspaper’s first issue since last week’s deadly attack on its staff went on sale with a print run of 3 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.
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 sympathized 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 offense to Islam.”
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. “I don’t insult the religion of other people, and I don’t want others to insult my religion.”
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.”
“I think we would have a much safer, much more prudent world if we were to engage in serious dialogue, serious debate about our differences and then what we will find out that what binds us together is far greater than what divides us,” he said.
Egyptian cartoonist Makhlouf appealed for peace with his own spin on the Charlie Hebdo cover, replacing Muhammad with an ordinary Middle Eastern man carrying a placard reading “I am an artist” in French.
“I am for art and against killing,” he added in Arabic. “May God forgive everyone.” The image was widely circulated on social media.
Turkey was rare among Muslim-majority nations to have publications running Charlie Hebdo images. But the decision has raised tensions in the officially secular country.
Police stopped trucks leaving the printing plant of newspaper Cumhuriyet after it said it would reprint some of the cartoons Wednesday. The vehicles were allowed to distribute the paper once officials had determined that the image of the Prophet Muhammad was not shown.
The paper printed a four-page selection of cartoons and articles — including caricatures of Pope Francis and French President Francois Hollande — but left out cartoons which Muslims may find offensive. However, two Cumhuriyet columnists used small, black-and-white images of the new Charlie Hebdo cover as their column headers.
A small group of pro-Islamic students staged a protest outside the paper’s office in Ankara, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported, and police intensified security outside Cumhuriyet’s headquarter and printing center as a precaution.
In contrast to Turkey, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi went so far as to issue a decree giving Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab the power to ban any foreign publication “offensive to religion.”
Across Europe, there was high demand for scarce copies of the latest edition, and several newspapers ran special supplements of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons.
Spain’s El Pais published a two-page supplement with Spanish translation, though it did not include any images of the prophet.
A small Italian newspaper, Il Fatto Quotidiano (The Daily Fact), published Charlie Hebdo as a 16-page supplement, in French with Italian translations of the captions.
“Why are we doing it?” editor Antonio Padellaro wrote in a front-page column. “Because last Friday, when we called the surviving top editor of Charlie Hebdo, we heard him say, ‘Thanks, you’re the only Italian newspaper who asked us.’”
Physical copies of Charlie Hebdo were hard to find, though newsagents in several countries said they hoped to have some in stock by the end of the week.
Michael Collingwood of Sgel, Charlie Hebdo’s Spanish distributor, said he normally received 40 copies but had been promised 1,000 this time by the paper’s French distributor. He figured he could sell eight times that number.
“I don’t know why they only printed 3 million,” he said. “Everyone wants it.”