The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is due to publish a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover of its first issue since assailants killed 12 people at its offices.
The newspaper Liberation hosted Charlie Hebdo’s staff as they prepared the new issue. Up to three million copies of its latest edition will be printed, which is 50 times more than usual.
The edition will appear today in 16 languages, including Arabic, and will be sold in 25 countries.
Liberation published the Charlie Hebdo cover online late on Monday night, depicting the Prophet Mohammed with a tear falling from his cheek, holding a sign that says, “Je suis Charlie,” the slogan that became a worldwide meme. Above Mohammed are the words “All Is Forgiven.”
Charlie Hebdo’s past caricatures of the prophet appear to have prompted last week’s attacks, which left a total of 17 people dead
Last Wednesday, two Muslim extremists attacked the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine with a history of mocking Mohammed. Twelve were killed, including several top editors, by two men with terrorist connections who said they were avenging the prophet.
Many Muslims object to any depictions of Mohammed — respectful or not — saying that such images defy his teachings and lead to idolatry.
For the secular satirists at Charlie Hebdo, neither of those concerns seemed to matter much. They often lampooned Mohammad, crudely caricaturing him as a backward, foolish figure.
It’s not surprising that, in its first issue since the attack, Charlie Hebdo again put Mohammed on the cover. But this time, instead of showing the prophet in an unflattering light, the magazine struck a far different tone — and was received by some Muslims in a far different way.
“My initial thought is that the cover is a near perfect response to the tragedy,” said Hussein Rashid, a professor of Islamic thought at Hofstra University in New York.
“They are not backing down from the depiction of Mohammed, exercising their free speech rights. At the same time, the message is conciliatory, humble, and will hopefully reduce the anger directed to the Muslim communities of France.”
Zineb El Rhazoui, a columnist at Charlie Hebdo magazine who worked on the new issue, told the BBC that the staff didn’t want to express hatred toward the terrorists who killed her colleagues.
“The (mobilization) that happened in France after this horrible crime must open the door to forgiveness. Everyone must think about this forgiveness.”
Chosen by Charlie Hebdo’s editors on Monday night, the cover was released by Liberation, the French newspaper that is sharing its office space with staffers from the satirical magazine.
Many media outlets have republished the cover in a show of solidarity. The issue will hit newsstands this Wednesday in a flood of 3 million copies translated into multiple languages.
As the new cover spreads across social media, Muslims responded with a mix of emotions, from wariness to appreciation, from miffed to dismissive.
Yahya Adel Ibrahim, an imam in Australia, counseled his 100,000 Facebook followers to follow the example of Mohammed, even if they encounter images that they believe are blasphemous.
“As it is clear that the cartoons are to be published again, Muslims will inevitably be hurt and angered, but our reaction must be a reflection of the teachings of the one we love & are angered for,” Ibrahim said. “Enduring patience, tolerance, gentleness and mercy was the character of our beloved Prophet.”
On Twitter, some Muslims were skeptical that publishing an image that many consider offensive should be construed as an act of solidarity. – Additional report from CNN.