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Next Charlie Hebdo Cover to Feature Prophet Muhammad


FILE - Editorial staff of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo share the offices of the French newspaper Liberation, in Paris, Jan. 9, 2015.

The publishers of Charlie Hebdo said the Prophet Muhammad will be on the cover of the next issue, which comes out on Wednesday.

In a preview released to media this week, the cover shows a weeping Prophet holding a sign saying "I Am Charlie" and standing under the headline "All is Forgiven."

The Charlie Hebdo staff held a news conference in Paris on Tuesday, saying they were publishing this edition "with joy and pain."

Cartoonist Renald "Luz" Luzier said the staff knew they had to publish a magazine after the attacks and knew it had to be meaningful. The staff talked about the cover for days and came up with the idea together.

Luzier said the terrorists who attacked the staff "wanted to promote hatred." He wanted to present the Prophet in a sympathetic fashion, which is why Muhammad is shown crying.

"If any good came out of this horrible event, it's that it was a long time since people took to the streets of Paris to express themselves, and it's been too long that too few magazines like ours exist in France," he said.

No interruptions in publication

Editor in chief Gerard Briard said, "We would like to tell you that there will be a future for Charlie Hebdo. We don't yet know what that will look like, but there will be no interruptions in the publication."

However, Briard added, "I can't tell you about the next edition, because, for now, we don't know ourselves."

He also thanked "all the institutions, anonymous people, personalities who are Charlie and who have thanked us."

The new edition of Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions, will include other cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad and also making fun of politicians and other religions, its lawyer, Richard Malka, said.

"We will not back down, otherwise none of this has any meaning," Malka told French radio. "If you hold the banner 'I am Charlie,' that means you have the right to blaspheme, you have the right to criticize my religion."

There was no official reaction from the government on the weekly's decision.

The publishers of the first post-terror attack issue of the magazine said they plan to run at least 3 million copies. Charlie Hebdo usually prints about 60,000 copies every week. Newsagents reported that large numbers of customers around the country were placing orders, which led to the increase in copies.

A double-page spread in the issue claims that more people turned out Sunday to back the magazine “than for Mass.”

The post-attack issue will be available in six languages, including English, Arabic and Turkish, Briard said at the news conference. Only the French, Italian and Turkish versions will be printed. The other three -- English, Spanish and Arabic -- will be offered in electronic form, he said, according to the French news agency AFP.

The cover

The French media is interpreting the cover to mean that Mohammad forgives the magazine for past offenses.

But speaking to the BBC, Zineb El Rhazoui, a columnist at Charlie Hebdo, said it is about the magazine forgiving the assailants.

“We feel that we have to forgive what happened. I think those who have been killed, if they would have been able to have a coffee today with the terrorists and just talk to ask them why have they done this. ... We feel at the Charlie Hebdo team that we need to forgive," El Rhazoui said.

“We don’t feel any hate to them. We know that the struggle is not with them as people, but the struggle is with an ideology,” she added.

Several of the Western TV outlets that reproduced the cartoon issued a warning to viewers first. And Britain’s Guardian newspaper printed on its page: “Warning: this article contains the image of the magazine cover, which some may find offensive.”

French Muslim leaders on Tuesday urged their community to keep calm and respect the right to freedom of expression.

“What is uncomfortable for us is the representation of the Prophet,” Abdelbaki Attaf told Reuters at the funeral in the northern Paris suburb of Bobigny of Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman shot trying to defend the Hebdo cartoonists.

“Any responsible Muslim will find it hard to accept that. But we shouldn't ban it,” said Attaf, himself an administrator at the mosque in nearby Gennevilliers occasionally visited by Cherif Kouachi, one of the Hebdo killers.

Caricature called racist

Egypt's Grand Mufti warned the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Tuesday against publishing a new caricature of the Prophet Mohammad, saying it was a racist act that would incite hatred and upset Muslims around the world.

“This edition will cause a new wave of hatred in French and Western society in general and what the magazine is doing does not serve coexistence or a dialog between civilizations,” the office of Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam, one of the region's most influential Muslim clerics, said in a statement.

“This is an unwarranted provocation against the feelings of ... Muslims around the world," the statement read.

However, the Grand Mufti described the attack on Charlie Hebdo as “terrorist” and Egypt's Al-Azhar, a thousand-year-old seat of religious learning respected by Muslims around the world, has referred to the attack as a criminal act. But they have also been critical of caricatures of the Prophet, which provoked protests when they were first published in 2005.

The president of the Muslim Association of Britain, Omer el-Hamdoon, said the cover will anger Muslims.

“My reaction to the cartoon is disgust, but tending more to annoyance as well, because I feel that what is happening here is not that different from what we witnessed back in 2005 with the Danish cartoons (featuring Muhammad) when media outlets went into a cycle of just publishing the cartoons just to show defiance. And what that caused is more offense," el-Hamdoon said.

A member of Jordan’s royal family, Prince Hassan bin Talal, also criticized the cartoon, saying “Je suis Ahmed” (“I am Ahmed”), a slogan referring to the Muslim policeman who was killed also in the attack, should have been the slogan used instead.

The attacks

On Sunday, at least 3.7 million people throughout France took part in marches of support for the magazine and freedom of expression. World leaders linked arms to lead more than a million people through Paris in an unprecedented homage to the victims.

Two Islamic extremist brothers, Cherif and Said Kouachi, massacred 12 people at the magazine's office last week. Charlie Hebdo is known for cartoons that poke fun at Islam and other religions, as well as public figures.

French police ambushed and killed the brothers Friday -- the same day another Islamic militant, Coulibaly, attacked the kosher supermarket before being killed by police. Coulibaly had killed French policewoman Jean-Philippe one day earlier.

Also, as debate about the Charlie Hebdo retort to the attack continued, Bulgarian authorities said they arrested a Frenchman suspected of links to one of the Kouachi brothers.

Jamie Detmer contributed to this article. Some material for this report came from Reuters and AFP.

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