WASHINGTON – Charlie Hebdo’s editor criticized newspapers in democratic countries for refusing to republish a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad that appears on the cover of the satirical magazine’s first edition since much of its staff were killed by Islamist gunmen.
The edition that went on sale last week depicts Muhammad crying, holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie” or “I am Charlie.” Above his image is written “All is Forgiven.” Some editors at other publications have declined to reprint the cartoon on the grounds that it’s considered offensive to Muslims.
“When they refuse to publish this cartoon, when they blur it out, when they decline to publish it, they blur out democracy, secularism, freedom of conscience, and they insult the citizenship,” Editor Gerard Biard said in an interview that aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
The Jan. 7 massacre at Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris by men the police say were radical Islamists has touched off debate about the balance between freedom of speech and religious tolerance. The magazine’s new cover has been the target of protests in predominantly Muslin nations including Pakistan and Sudan, led to riots in Niger that left 10 people dead, and was even criticized by the head of the Catholic church.
“One cannot provoke,” Pope Francis told reporters last week while aboard a plane taking him from Sri Lanka to the Philippines. “One cannot insult other people’s faith. One cannot make fun of faith.”
Charlie Hebdo has a long history of irreverent caricatures of politicians, pop stars and religious leaders, including depictions of Muhammad.
Biard said he was in London at the time of the attack.
“There are those who were injured and who are still hospitalized,” Biard said. “Some of the injured are still in serious condition. And then there are those who were present during the attack but who escaped injury. They are trying individually to understand why they escaped unharmed.”