Masked gunmen on Wednesday attacked the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French magazine known for its biting humor — and, more specifically, for a string of satirical cartoons about Islam and the Prophet Muhammed.
Charlie Hebdo, whose name translates roughly to "Charlie Weekly," is a weekly publication that covers French politics through cartoons, satirical articles, and jokes. Although its editor-in-chief Stéphane Charbonnier, who was killed in the attack, has said that he considered the magazine a leftist-pluralist publication, its stance can perhaps better be described as anti-institutional. Its biting satire habitually targeted the government, high-profile politicians, and organized religion. The magazine was founded in 1969, and was resurrected in 1992 following a three-year hiatus.
Those cartoons have provoked a backlash against the magazine in the past, including a firebomb attack on its offices in 2011. But for the editors of the magazine, the offense was the point: the cartoons were directed as much at public sanctimony about Islam and multiculturalism as they were at their nominal subjects. They believed that the short-term decision to avoid offense would damage French secular culture in the longer term.
That debate is not limited to the pages of Charlie Hebdo. The question of whether Islam poses a threat to French culture is a hot-button issue in France, where "laïcité" — secularism — has such importance that it has been described as a "founding myth" of the French republic.The magazine's cover this week seems to highlight the dangers of avoiding offense. It featured a cartoon figure saying "In 2015, I lose my teeth. In 2022, I observe Ramadan!"
Wednesday, January 07, 2015
Why did 12 people have to die today?