The deadly attack on controversial Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo last week has served to heighten not just terrorism-related security issues but also the cavernous divide between some Muslims and the West.
While many Muslims have expressed outrage at the killing of 12 people, many of them cartoonists who had a hand in a series of drawings depicting the Prophet Mohammed, others chose to focus on what they consider to be the offensive nature of the publication. In mainstream Islamic culture, showing the Prophet Mohammed in any form – even flattering – is considering blasphemy.
That the remaining staff of Charlie Hebdo chose to defiantly return to publication this week featuring a cover cartoon of the prophet – with the bubble Je suis Charlie, the rallying cry of Hebdo supporters – has led not only to violent protests but also injuries and deaths.
In Karachi, Pakistan, Friday, encounters between police and protesters gathered in front of the French embassy saw four shot, including two journalists. Pakistani lawmakers called the Hebdo cartoons hate speech; a parliamentary resolution noted that “freedom of expression should not be used as a means to attack or hurt public sentiments and religious beliefs.”
In the West African nation of Niger, President Mahamadou Issoufou said at least 10 people have been killed after violent protests broke out against the latest cartoon depicting Mohammed in the French publication. Issoufou said that five deaths were reported after demonstrations in the capital of Niamey on Saturday. The victims were inside churches and bars that were set ablaze, he said. On Friday, at least five people were killed in the town of Zinder after prayer services there.
Iranian judicial authorities on Saturday banned a daily newspaper for publishing a front-page headline that allegedly indicated support for Charlie Hebdo. Mohammad Ghoochani, chief editor of the daily Mardom-e-Emrooz, or Today’s People, told the semi-official Tasnim news agency that his paper had been ordered closed. The paper’s Tuesday edition featured a front-page article with a headline that quoted filmmaker and activist George Clooney as saying “I am Charlie Hebdo.” However the accompanying article did not actually express support for Clooney’s statement, nor for the magazine itself.
The Iranian government has publicly condemned both the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the magazine itself, calling the continued publishing of Mohammed caricatures “provocative” and an insult to Islam.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world on Saturday, Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani condemned Charlie Hebdo, calling the newest cover image of Prophet Mohammed a blasphemous and irresponsible act.
“Freedom of expression should be used in a way to boost understanding between the religions,” he said in a statement issued by the presidential palace. “Afghanistan has suffered many years of war and violence, more than any other country, and it is necessary to understand and promote peaceful coexistence among all the people of the world.”
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also issued a statement of condemnation, warning that, “offensive words might lead to further bloodshed.”
Al-Abadi called on all parties to “desist such practices that create an atmosphere of division and rejection.” He also reiterated his condemnation of the attacks on innocent victims in Paris, saying that terrorism, “has nothing to do with Islam in any way.”
Protesters also demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, as well as in the Pakistani city of Karachi. In Egypt, the Islamist Noor Party denounced the latest Charlie Hebdo cover on its French-language Facebook page. “Just as the Noor Party rejects the assault on civilians and the negative effects it has for all Muslims of Europe, it also rejects this barbaric, irresponsible act under the name of freedom of expression,” the statement declared.
In Gaza City, the capital of the Gaza Strip, unknown vandals scrawled graffiti on the walls of the French Cultural Center. In addition to statements praising the Prophet Mohammed and declaring him off-limits for ridicule or satire, the vandals also wrote: “To hell, to a miserable destiny, French journalists.”
SOURCE: The Associated Press
Marco della Cava, USA Today