Post-attack Charlie Hebdo issue sells out
THE first issue of Charlie Hebdo after an Islamist attack that decimated its editorial staff was sold out across France within hours yesterday, even as Muslim groups condemned the satirical magazine's decision to again use an image of the Prophet Muhammad.
Many Parisians joined long queues outside newspaper kiosks in the pre-dawn cold to get their hands on one of 700,000 copies.
Distributors quickly announced the print run would be increased to five million - dwarfing Charlie Hebdo's normal run of around 60,000 copies, and the edition will also be available in English, Spanish, Italian, Arabic and Turkish.
Such was demand that copies were being offered on eBay for thousands of euros. The online selling and auction site had one vendor listing the new Charlie Hebdo issues at 15,000 euros (S$24,000) for immediate purchase, compared with the cover price of just 3 euros.
The new edition's cover featured the Prophet - but with a tear in his eye, holding a "Je suis Charlie" ("I am Charlie") sign under the headline "All is forgiven".
"This issue is symbolic, it represents their persistence, they didn't yield in the face of terror," said Catherine Boniface, a 58-year-old doctor, who was disappointed to have come up empty-handed at one Paris newsstand.
While surviving staff members described their choice of cover as a show of forgiveness, most Muslims consider any depiction of the Prophet to be blasphemous.
The new edition reignited the debate pitting free speech against religious sensitivities that has embroiled Europe since 12 people were killed during an attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices by Muslim extremists a week ago.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - which has been linked to at least one of the three gunmen behind last week's attacks on the magazine and a Jewish supermarket - said the decision to print another Prophet cartoon was "extremely stupid".
Some global Muslim leaders also chimed in, with Egypt's state-sponsored Islamic authority, Dar Al-Ifta, saying the new issue "will result in a new wave of hatred in French and Western society".
The persistence of what many Muslims see as continuing provocations opened complaints about a double standard in European countries, whose bans on hate speech some see as seeming to stop short of forbidding ridicule of Islam.
Elsa Ray, spokesman for the Paris-based Collective Against Islamophobia in France, declined to react specifically to the new cartoon, but said that cartoons lampooning the Prophet breached the limits of decency and insulted Muslims.
"Freedom of expression may be guaranteed by the French Constitution, but there is a limit when it goes too far and turns into hatred and stigmatisation," she said.
Despite the outpouring of support for free speech in recent days, its limits were exposed yesterday when controversial French comedian Dieudonne Mbala Mbala was arrested for condoning terrorism by writing "I feel like Charlie Coulibaly" on Facebook.
He was mixing the popular slogan "Je suis Charlie", used in homage to the slain journalists, with a reference to gunman Amedy Coulibaly, who attacked the Jewish supermarket, killing four hostages, and shot dead a policewoman.
The latest edition of Charlie Hebdo took pot shots at a variety of targets and was, as expected, "a festival of bad taste", reported British newspaper The Independent.
It said a centrespread marking Sunday's historic march in Paris contained a drawing that showed French political leaders, including President Francois Hollande and former president Nicolas Sarkozy. The caption said: "One family of clowns has been decimated; 10 others have been found."
There was also a cartoon of the Pope dressed as a mafia boss.
AFP, REUTERS, NYT