Editor of French magazine defends blasphemous act
By: Sabir Shah
LAHORE: Millions of hurt souls across the Muslim world might be unaware of the fact that a Paris-based satirical weekly “Charlie Hebdo,” which has come up printing extremely profane cartoons to insult Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and mock Islam very recently on September 19, has a long track record of displaying irreverence towards Islam.
Even BBC’s Paris correspondent Hugh Schofield has endorsed this fact in one of his recent reports for the globally-renowned British media outlet.
In 2006, “Charlie Hebdo” had reprinted 12 controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that were first shown in the infamous Danish newspaper “Jyllands-Posten” and had caused outrage in the Muslim world.
In its February 9, 2006 edition, “Charlie Hebdo” had reprinted the cartoons of the “Jyllands-Posten” and had added a few of its own.
Compared to a regular circulation of 100,000 sold copies, this edition had enjoyed great commercial success as 160,000 copies were sold and another 150,000 were in print later that day. This outrageous and irresponsible act of “Charlie Hebdo” had not amused the then French President Jacques Chirac, who had stated that such “overt provocations” could inflame passions.
A few Muslim organizations moved a Paris court against the magazine, but the journalists responsible for the blasphemy were finally acquitted in March 2007.
In November 2007, the offices of “Charlie Hebdo” were fire-bombed after it had published a previous set of cartoons that mocked Islam. The weekly’s website was also hacked with a message in English and Turkish attacking the magazine.
The November 2, 2007 BBC report had stated: “The offices of the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris have been destroyed in a petrol bomb attack. French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has described the petrol-bombing as an unjustifiable attack on the freedom of the press. The editor-in-chief of the magazine, Stephane Charbonnier, said Islam could not be excluded from freedom of the press.”
The most recent act of the “Charlie Hebdo” has now forced the French government to close its embassies, consulates, cultural centres and international schools in about 20 countries on Friday (today) due to fears of violence.
France, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, has already decided to close its schools in Tunisia, which is home to 30,000 French, until coming Monday as a preventive measure.
Meanwhile, French schools and cultural centres in Egypt had remained closed on Thursday (yesterday).
So inflammatory is the most recent content of the “Charlie Hebdo” that its offices in Paris are now surrounded by police as authorities fear a backlash against this blasphemous publication. According to ‘The Washington Post’, BBC and ‘Daily Telegraph’ the weekly enjoys a circulation of 150,000 copies a week.
Gerard Biard, the editor of “Charlie Hebdo” has further provoked the infuriated Muslims on the planet by telling BBC: “The decision to publish the images was in keeping with France’s proud history of secularism. There is only one reason [for the cartoons] — it was the news of the week. We have the silly movie, the silly film, about the Prophet Mohammed [PBUH], and we have the burning of the American embassy in Libya. We are a satirical, political magazine, we publish in France which is a laic (secular) nation and …we are against all religions. The cartoons’ publication is not in itself a violence-provoking act. We’re not killing people. We’re not the violent ones. We are just journalists who do their job.”
“The Daily Telegraph” has quoted the magazine’s editor Biard as commenting further: “It is like saying a woman who has been raped is to blame because she wore a miniskirt. We are provocateurs, we are wearing a miniskirt but who is guilty: the person in the miniskirt or the rapist.”
Moreover, this newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Charbonnier (also known as Charb), said he did not see the attack on the magazine as the work of French Muslims, but of what he called “idiot extremists.”
The magazine said its under-discussion recent edition was intended to “celebrate” the victory of an Islamist party in last month’s Tunisian elections.The French government, it is pertinent to note, has already denied a permit to a group that sought to protest the blasphemous film “Innocence of Muslims.”
The country’s Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, has slated the magazine’s decision, saying, “In France, there is a principle of freedom of expression, which should not be undermined. In the present context, given this absurd video that has been aired, strong emotions have been awakened in many Muslim countries. Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?”
“The Daily Telegraph” has gone on to write in its recent September 19, 2012 edition: “The magazine’s print run of 75,000 had sold out by mid-afternoon amid reports of people ripping up numerous copies in the street. More will be on sale tomorrow. Religious leaders in France and abroad warned the cartoons stood to inflame tensions. The Vatican’s official daily “Osservatore Romano” said the cartoons risk adding “more fuel to the fire after the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi.”
The prestigious British daily has reported: “Richard Prasquier, head of the body representing France’s Jewish community, said religious censorship was wrong but added: “Publishing Mohammad [PBUH] cartoons at this time, in the name of freedom, is irresponsible. The magazine’s editor, also a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, said it mocked all religions and extremists with equal zeal and denied the timing was particularly provocative. He rejected as irrelevant charges of throwing oil on the fire.”
However, former French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has defended the magazine by saying: “I defend Charlie Hebdo, I defend the freedom of expression and I think we mustn’t give an inch of ground on this front.”