PARIS - Six years have passed since the publication of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and the subsequent storm that erupted in Muslim communities throughout the world. But a new storm has arrived after a French satirical weeklys cartoon portrayal of the prophet Mohammed. Early Wednesday morning, an act of arson partially destroyed the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine. At the same time, the publications web site was hacked, making it inaccessible to visitors.
Under the title Charia Hebdo (Sharia Weekly), the weekly magazine dedicated the edition that went on sale Wednesday morning to the rise of Islamists in Tunisia and Libya. Mohammed was listed as the guest editor in chief. A supplement, called Sharia Madame, was promised, as well as a cooking section called Halal Aperitifs. To make sure no one missed the satirical nature of the publication, a caricature of Mohammed on the cover threatened, 100 lashes if you arent dying of laughter.
A police inquiry has been opened, but so far has not been able to establish either the identity or motives of the arsonists, who threw Molotov cocktails at the building. Just as every week, the cover of the magazine is circulated in press releases before it goes to the newsstand. And this cover quickly generated plenty of hostile, even threatening, reactions on social networks.
Prohibitions and protections
Islam prohibits all representation of the prophet Mohammed. Like the Danish newspaper and the other publications that followed it in solidarity, Charlie Hebdo chose to ignore that rule. Of course, this rule is neither part of French law nor recognized under any jurisprudence in a secular country such as France.
There is, however, a rule of law in force in France and throughout Europe that is dedicated to the protection of the free press. Whatever one thinks of Charlie Hebdos editorial choices, the aesthetics of its covers or the sensitivity of its style, the weekly clearly advertises its satirical nature.
There is nothing that could justify attacking an institution of the press, neither with Molotov cocktails nor Internet hacking, as a way to demonstrate unhappiness with the contents of the publication. And while the law does provide for some limits on freedom of the press, there are courts to force the media to respect existing laws. Charlie Hebdo was sued by Muslim organizations in Paris for republishing the Danish cartoons, though a Paris court of appeals acquitted the paper in 2008 of accusations of inciting racial hatred.
The physical attacks against Charlie Hebdo are no more acceptable than the actions of groups of fundamentalist Christians who have protested the Parisian staging of the Italian play On the Concept of the Son of Gods Face. Since October 20, these protesters have interrupted performances and threatened theater-goers. Freedom of expression and artistic creation are essential values of our democracies. It is basic point worth reminding to anyone who, under cover of fighting Islamophobia or Christianophobia, are actually promoting intolerance.
Read the original article in French
photo - Rue89