PARIS — Charlie Hebdo released a new version of its irreverent and often offensive newspaper Tuesday, defiantly putting a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover that drew immediate criticism and threats of more violence.
The newspaper planned an unprecedented print run of 3 million copies Wednesday — one week to the day after the assault by two masked gunmen that killed 12 people, including much of its editorial staff and two police officers. It was the beginning of three days of terror that saw 17 people killed before the Islamic extremist attackers were gunned down by security forces.
The latest cover shows a weeping Muhammad, holding a sign reading “I am Charlie” with the words “All is forgiven” above him. Some interpretations of Islamic law forbid images of the prophet.
Charlie Hebdo’s newest edition also skewers other religions and includes a double-page spread illustrating Sunday’s march in Paris that drew more than a million people to condemn terrorism, claiming that the turnout was larger “than for Mass.”
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“For the past week, Charlie, an atheist newspaper, has achieved more miracles than all the saints and prophets combined,” it said in the lead editorial. “The one we are most proud of is that you have in your hands the newspaper that we always made.”
Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist with the weekly, said the cover meant the journalists are forgiving the extremists for the attack.
Renald Luzier, the cartoonist who drew the cover image under the pen name “Luz,” said it represents “just a little guy who’s crying.”
Then he added, unapologetically: “Yes, it is Muhammad.”
Muslim groups and scholars in France and elsewhere voiced concerns Tuesday that the satirical newspaper’s first cover since the attack last week could ignite dangerous new passions in a debate pitting free speech against religious doctrine.
One of Egypt’s highest Islamic authorities, Dar al-Ifta, warned that the new cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad would exacerbate tensions between the secular West and observant Muslims. Death threats circulated online against the surviving staff members of the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo.
The blunt admonition, from a pillar of the mainstream Sunni Muslim establishment in the Arab world’s most populous country, recalled the pronouncements of Egyptian clerics in 2006 when cartoons depicting Muhammad were published in European newspapers, prompting a massive outpouring of protest in many parts of the Muslim world.
Egypt’s government has strongly condemned the attacks in Paris, framing them as part of its own struggle against Islamist extremists who have killed hundreds of soldiers and police officers over the past 1½ years.
In its statement, Dar al-Ifta mentioned attacks on mosques in the wake of the attacks in France. And it said that the planned Charlie Hebdo cover would serve as an “unjustified provocation to the feelings of a billion and a half Muslims around the world who love and respect the Prophet.” It said the newspaper’s cover “will give an opportunity for extremists from both sides to exchange violent acts that only the innocent will pay for.”
Indeed, criticism and threats immediately appeared on extremist websites, with calls for more strikes against the newspaper and anonymous threats from radicals, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S.-based terrorism monitor.
The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo maintained the intentionally offensive tone that made the newspaper famous in France. The first two pages included drawings by the slain cartoonists: One showed a much-loved late French nun talking about oral sex; another showed Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders dividing up the world.
The lead editorial laid out a defense of secularism, and of the newspaper’s right to lampoon religions and hold their leaders accountable.
Luzier, the cartoonist who drew the latest cover, escaped the massacre last week because he was late to work. On Tuesday, he sought to explain the drawing.
“I had the idea to draw Muhammad because he is my character. Because he exists when I draw him, because he is a character that caused our premises to be firebombed, and later to be treated as irresponsible provocateurs — while we are above all cartoonists who love to draw little guys, like when we were children.
“The terrorists have been children, too,” Luzier continued. “They drew like all the children do, and then they lost their sense of humor.”
Around the world, news organizations took different approaches to illustrating stories about the Charlie Hebdo cover. In the United States, a CBS program and The New York Post ran images of the cover, while the ABC network didn’t. The Seattle Times and The New York Times also didn’t publish it.
CNN didn’t show the cover. The Associated Press also did not run the cartoon, based on its policy to avoid images designed to provoke on the basis of religion.
Spain’s leading daily newspapers published the image online, and the state broadcaster showed it. In Britain, the BBC, The Times of London, the Guardian and the Independent went with the image; The Daily Telegraph didn’t.