The controversial works of Charlie Hebdo offend more than just Muslims

// January 7th, 2015 // Politics and legal

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Warning: this article contains images which followers of Islam may find offensive.

Charlie Hebdo reader reading one of their first controversial issues

When masked gunmen stormed the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, they were heard to shout “Allahu Akbar” or “God is Great” in Arabic. That the attackers were Muslim terrorists is without question. So what had Charlie Hebdo published to upset followers of Islam? Turns out they have a long history of satirical (and vulgar) “comedy” aimed at religion – Islam in particular.  Vulgar?  Yes.  Offensive?  Certainly.  And Charlie Hebdo editors know it saying “I’d rather die standing than on my knees.”

Here’s a sample of Charlie Hebdo covers along with explanations of what the cartoons depict (for us Westerners who have no idea what they mean) .

The controversial works of Charlie Hebdo

2006 cover featuring a weeping Muhammad

In 2006, the first Islamic spoof appeared on the cover of Charlie Hebdo featuring a frustrated and weeping Mohammed with the headline, “Mohammed overwhelmed by Fundamentalism”, and Mohammed himself saying “It’s hard to be loved by idiots.”  This issue also included reprints of the controversial Danish Jyllands-Posten cartoons that depicted several caricatures of the prophet.

2006 cover featuring a weeping Muhammad

 

2010 – the banning of burqas

In 2010, Charlie Hebdo’s cover spoofed the French’s controversial law banning women from wearing burqas in public.  The caption reads, “Yes to wearing the burqa – on the inside!”

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2010 – the banning of burqas

 

April 2011 cover of Muslim worshipping French president

In a 2011 issue, Charlie Hebdo’s cover featured a Muslim man, kneeling before Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President.

April 2011 cover of Muslim worshipping French president

May 2011 cover featuring Bin Laden dressed as Elvis Presley

The May 2011 issue featured a caricature of Bin Laden dressed as Elvis with the caption, “Bin Laden is Alive!”

Charlie Hebdo May 2011 cover featuring Bin Laden dressed as Elvis Presley

October 2011 cover of Charlie Hebdo – guest edited by prophet Muhammad

The October 2011 cover of Charlie Hebdo was “guest-edited” by Muhammad.  The byline reads, “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!”

October 2011 cover of Charlie Hebdo

 

November 2011 cover of Charlie Hebdo features Muslim and cartoonist kissing

The November 2011 cover of Charlie Hebdo featured a Muslim and cartoonists making out with the caption, “Love is stronger than hate”.

November 2011 cover of Charlie Hebdo

 

2012 Innocence of Muslims cartoons

In 2012, after publication of the video The Innocence of Muslims, a series of cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad were included in the issue.  The one below featured a bent-over Muhammad, private parts covered with a bright gold star, with the caption, “A star is born.”

2012 Innocence of Muslims cartoons

 

Another featured a nude Muhammad, lying on a bed before a video camera, with the caption, “My butt?  And you love it, my butt?”

2012 Innocence of Muslims cartoons

 

2013 cover depicting Muslim man attempting to stop bullets with the Koran

This 2013 cover featured a Muslim man attempting to stop bullets with the Quran.  The top left-hand caption reads “Death in Egypt” with the words “The Koran is poop” written beside it.  The phrase in the yellow box reads “This doesn’t stop bullets”.

2013 cover depicting Muslim man attempting to stop bullets with the Koran

October 2014 cover depicting the beheading of Mohammed

In October 2014, Charlie Hebdo featured a cover depicting a Muslim terrorist beheading the prophet Mohammed with a knife.  The cartoon shows the prophet telling his attacker, “I’m the Prophet, idiot!” while his attacker responds, “Shut up Infidel!”

October 2014 cover depicting the beheading of Mohammed

January 2015

After the Charlie Hebdo attack, the magazine refused to relent and included the following cover on their first post-massacre issue (aka the “survival issue”).  The cover features the prophet Mohammad holding a sign that says “I am Charlie” with the words “All is forgiven” gracing the top of the cover.  To most Westerners, this is not offensive and in fact, quite the opposite.  To some it seemed to be a Christian-like demonstration of compassion [cough] and forgiveness.  But as publication of the issue neared, demonstrations erupted in Muslim communities throughout the world and Muslim leaders publicly condemned the issue.

January 2015 Charlie Hebdo cover featuring Prophet Muhammad with sign that says "I am Charlie"

Muslims were not the only religion to be offended

It’s worth pointing out that Charlie Hebdo didn’t stop with satirical depictions of Islam – Christians have been attacked too.  (Remember the “Piss Christ” cover?  How about the 2006 “Screaming Jesus” on the cover?  Yeah, me neither…)  A 2006 cover depicted the birth of Jesus and several covers have featured derogatory depictions of the Catholic Pope.  Still, Islam appeared to be a favorite target and its its editor-in-chief Stéphane Charbonnier, once told reporters the magazine would continue to mock Islam until it was “as banal as Catholicism.”

“I have no kids, no wife, no car, no credit.  What I am saying may be a bit pompous, but I prefer to die standing than live on my knees.”

It’s also interesting to note that the publication has been banned in France multiple times in the past (given the terrorist pressure – good luck getting the French to ban it now) and went out of business for over a decade after years of poor sales.  Not surprisingly, attacks such as yesterday’s Islamic assault against Charlie Hebdo’s offices only further popularity, and sales, of the magazine.  After it’s first Islamic satire in 2006, sales of the magazine tripled in a single day.  Express UK recently noted:

“It has previously been reported how Charlie Hebdo must sell 30,000 issues of its weekly magazine from news-stands to keep afloat.  It has routinely seen sales double or magazines sell out each time it has run controversial cartoons of Muhammed.”

Contrasted to a normal print run of 30,000 copies, 3 million copies were printed following the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack.  Demand for the issue was so great, within two days the run was expanded to 5 million copies.

Sources: Charlie Hebdo, Express UK, Twitter (#jesuischarlie, #iamcharlie)
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