New Controversial Cover of Charlie Hebdo Divides Opinion
Three million copies of the new Charlie Hebdo magazine are being printed in France and some may be coming to the UK. The cover depicts the Islamic prophet holding a card reading ‘Je Suis Charlie’ with a tear in his eye. The title above the cartoon reads ‘All is Forgiven’.
Having gone into publication it is reported that hundreds of copies will be sent to the UK, radical preacher Anjem Choudary has criticised the satirical magazine’s cover calling it an “act of war” and warned there would be “repercussions”. Smiths News and Menzies are expected to be purchasing up to a 2,000 copies to supply to stores in the UK.
Choudary said “ridiculing” the prophet is attacking his personality and called these actions “extremely serious”, adding that if the “act of war” was heard in a Shariah Court it would result in capital punishment.
“It’s not just a cartoon, it’s insulting, it’s ridiculing, it’s provoking,” he said. “These things always have a history of coming back and biting them. People are not going to forget. Muslims will never forget what these people did.
“And I’m sure there’s someone somewhere who will take the law into his own hands. It’s inevitable.
“There will be repercussions. I think there will be someone somewhere who will retaliate.”
Omer El-Hamdoon, from the Muslim Association of Britain, said the actual portrayal of Mohammed and the element of satire will offend Muslims.
“Because he is held in high esteem, we find that any sort of publishing of cartoons would not really be suffice to present the person he is,” he said.
“And this becomes more problematic when the actual cartoon is actually out there to offend people, to actually make a satire out of this image.” He believes this will be the view of the majority of Muslims.
Sughra Ahmed, president of the Islamic Society of Britain, offered a different view saying that freedom had to be defended “at all costs”.
“We need to de-escalate the tension around all this. Those Muslims who feel offended may have a right, but in the scheme of things we should be far more offended by injustice, economic exploitation, anti-Semitism, homophobia, murder, etc,” she said.
“We are not defending the new cartoon per se, but the ‘all is forgiven’ sentiment is important and gracious and if many of my work colleagues were shot dead, I would feel defiant and want to fight back, so I understand where this is coming from.
“At a time when Muslims in other parts of the world are struggling for freedom, we should understand better than anyone else the importance of free speech. Freedom is a benefit for all, and we need to defend it at all costs.”
A spokeswoman for Smiths News has said they may receive a very limited supply of the title but full details had yet to be released. WHSmith have said they will not be stocking the magazine, claiming Charlie Hebdo was not a publication they would normally stock. Distributors Menzies is due to supply hundreds of copies to outlets across the UK.
A spokesman for Menzies said, “We don’t expect to face particular (security) issues, but we will take whatever precautions our security team believe are sensible to ensure the safety of our employees.”
Zineb El Rhazoui, one of the remaining journalists who contributed to the cover, said the cover was an act of forgiveness towards the shooters Chérif and Saïd Kouachi. After the attacks the remaining devastated journalists claimed the publication would run as usual. The massacre triggered a global debate on free speech and brought more than 4 million people on to the streets of France in a unity march.