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French Publication Attacked for Depicting Muhammad

Samara Greenberg

Reminiscent of the Danish cartoon controversy, the Paris office of a French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, was gutted in an apparent Molotov cocktail attack early Wednesday morning. The attack, which occurred in the hours before the magazine’s latest edition hit shelves, seems to be a violent response to it. Today’s publication is a special Arab Spring edition in which the magazine is renamed “Charia Hebdo” in reference to sharia law, and the prophet Muhammad is given the title as guest “editor.” The image on the cover is a cartoon of the prophet saying, “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!”

Also on Wednesday, the magazine’s website was apparently hacked, showing images of a mosque with the message “No god but allah.” According to the U.K.-based The Telegraph, a message in English and Turkish cursing the magazine was also posted: “You keep abusing Islam’s almighty Prophet with disgusting and disgraceful cartoons using excuses of freedom of speech. Be God’s curse upon you!”

Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Luz holds this week’s edition of the magazine in front of the publication’s burnt building.

The paper, known as controversial and anti-clerical, reportedly named the prophet as editor in “honor” of the Islamist Ennahda party’s success in Tunisia’s first election since its revolution, and the Libyan government’s announcement that sharia would dictate the country’s most “basic” legislation. Masked with a cartoon on the cover, the magazine’s message is a serious one about the so-called Arab Spring worth exploring.

No religion is compatible with democracy from the moment a political party representing it wants to take power in the name of God,” its editorial read. “What would be the point of a religious party taking power if it didn’t apply its ideas. Hello, we are the Bolchevik party and if you vote for us we promise never to speak of Communism…Come on.”

“It was a joke where the topic was to imagine a world where Sharia would be applied,” the magazine’s editor, known as Charb, said in an interview. “But since everyone tells us not to worry about Libya or Tunisia, we wanted to explain what would be a soft version of Sharia, a Sharia applied in a soft manner.”

Ironically, the assailants only harmed themselves by showcasing their intolerance and what the creation of sharia-based Islamist states in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings may bring.