from Middle East Matters and Middle East Program

Hostile Middle East Reactions to Today’s Charlie Hebdo Cover

January 14, 2015

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The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published its first issue today since gunmen stormed the magazine’s headquarters in Paris last Monday, killing twelve people. The new cover depicts the Prophet Muhammad cryingand holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign under the words: “Tout est pardonné” (“All is forgiven”). The surviving editors of the magazine held a press conference today claiming that the cartoon is an act of forgiveness. The cartoonist of today’s provocative cover, Renald Luzier, stated, “we have confidence in people’s intelligence and we have confidence in humor.” Immediately, the Charlie Hebdo cover precipitated widespread condemnation across the Middle East invoking accusations of blasphemy, though reactions varied.

In a statement to the New York Times today, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula reacted to Charlie Hebdo cartoons , saying, “We have warned you before about the consequences of these deeds that your governments collude with under the pretext of ‘freedom of press’ or ‘freedom of ideas…We tell you once again, stop your insults on our Prophet and sanctities. Stop spilling our blood. Leave our lands.”

Below are some other reactions from political and religious leaders and media institutions across the Middle East:

Algeria

Journalist Habib Rashdim, writing in the Arabic language daily newspaper Echourouk, condemned the French government for helping to fund today’s edition of Charlie Hebdo, saying this “violates all red lines, and is an open crusade against Muslims… It has become every Muslim’s right today to file a lawsuit against the country’s ambassadors over charges of ‘insult and contempt for religion.’”

Algerian anti-Islamist newspaper Ennahar responded to today’s Charlie Hebdo cover with a front page cartoon showing a man carrying a “Je suis Charlie” sign next to an army tank crushing placards from Palestine, Mali, Gaza, Iraq and Syria. The headline at the top of the image says: “Nous sommes tous… Mohamed” (“We are all Muhammad”).

Egypt

Egypt’s Grand Mufti Shawqi Allam warned Charlie Hebdo against publishing a new caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, saying:

“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 dialogue between civilizations…This is an unwarranted provocation against the feelings of…Muslims around the world.”

Secretary General of Egypt’s Journalists Syndicate Karem Mahmoud:

“Insistence on hurting the feelings of millions of Muslims across the world undoubtedly serves the interests of extremists…[the new cover will] embarrass moderate voices who had viewed the Paris crime as treacherous and unlinked to Islam.”

Ibrahim Negm, spokesperson for Dar al-Ifta, the fatwa-issuing institution of Al Azhar, said in a lecture at the Martin Luther Church in New York:

“The ‪‎world must listen to the wise voices from among the ‪followers of different faiths and pay attention to the demands they repeat after each incident of offense against religious symbols and beliefs…the best way to respond to any offense against the Messenger [of God] is to ignore it and show kindness instead, just as he used to do along his lifetime.”

Iran

Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi, a leading cleric in Iran, said the publication of further satirical images of Mohammad “amounts to declaring war on all Muslims.”

Tabnak, a conservative news site in Iran, stated “Charlie Hebdo has once again insulted the Prophet.”

Foreign Minister Mohammad Jawad Zarif, while waiting for nuclear talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said:

“Unless we learn to respect one another, it will be very difficult in a world of different views and different cultures and civilizations, we won’t be able to engage in a serious dialogue if we start disrespecting each other’s values…we believe that sanctities need to be respected…”

Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s Grand Mufti Mohammed Hussein criticized the Charlie Hebdo editors’ decision to publish a new cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad saying:

“This insult has hurt the feelings of nearly two billion Muslims all over the world. The cartoons and other slander damage relations between the followers of the (Abrahamic) faiths."

Jordan

Former Crown Prince Hassan bin Talal said:

“If the cartoon had read “Je suis Ahmed,” given that many were carrying that badge after the police [killed] Ahmed Merabet, might not have put more salt to the wound but taken it to another level.”

Turkey

Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin Akdogan said in a message on Twitter, as a Turkish court banned some web sites from showing the most recent Charlie Hebdo cover:

“Those who publish imagery referring to our esteemed prophet with complete disregard for Muslims’ holy beliefs are engaging in an open provocation.”

Utku Cakirözer, editor-in-chief of pro-secular newspaper Cumhuriyet, wrote on Twitter:

“When publishing this selection [of latest Charlie Hebdo cartoons], we paid attention to the freedom of belief and the religious sensitivities of societies…After multiple consultations, we decided not to publish on the cover.”

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