Saturday, February 11, 2006

Paris, France- The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo reprinted in its Wednesday February 8, 2006, issue the cartoons originally printed in Jyllands-Posten, representing caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo is known for its ferocious critical tone and general hostility towards organized religion.

Charlie Hebdo normally prints 140,000 copies; 160,000 were printed of these issues, but were sold out before midday. The paper announced an exceptional re-issue of 160,000 the next day. According to Le Figaro, the final printout could exceed 400,000.

Some French Muslim associations had tried to obtain an injunction against the publishing of the paper, claiming that the cartoons incited to racial and religious hatred, but the court rejected their request on procedural grounds, as recommended by the public prosecutor. The judge, Jean-Claude Magendie, remarked that the 1881 law on the Press is very formal in order to protect the rights of defense with respect to freedom of speech.

The French government had law enforcement officers, many equipped for riot control, guard the outside of the parisian offices of the paper, should some protesters try to disrupt public order. However, at mid-day, no protesters could be seen. Charlie Hebdo is normally highly critical of police action and extraordinary security measures.

Another French satirical weekly, Le Canard enchaîné did not publish the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons because they were, according to it, “not very fun and not very original”, but published series of cartoons mocking Islamists (those exploiting the Muslim faith for political purposes). The Canard called them “Satanic drawings”, in a probable allusion to The Satanic Verses, a novel whose author was sentenced to death by Islamists.

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