The Washington Post has published the latest cover of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which features an image of the prophet Muhammad, despite criticism from conservative Muslims that such depictions are blasphemous and offensive.
The Charlie Hebdo cover — in which a tearful caricature of Muhammad is shown below the phrase “Tout est pardonné,” or “All is forgiven” — was posted Monday night in Comic Riffs, a Post blog. The cover cartoon shows the turbaned, bearded figure holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie,” or “I am Charlie,” the global rallying cry following an attack on the French publication last week that left 12 dead in Paris.
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron approved publication of the image on The Post’s blog and in the newspaper. It is apparently the first time a Muhammad depiction has appeared in The Post’s news columns. Baron said last week that the paper’s policy was to avoid publication of material that is “deliberately” offensive to religious groups but said Monday that the new Charlie Hebdo cartoon did not meet that criterion.
“We’ve never maintained that simply publishing an image of Muhammad itself was offensive,” Baron said. “Our policy has been to avoid publication of material that is pointedly, deliberately or needlessly offensive to members of religious groups. That remains our policy, but this doesn’t fall into that category.”
Charlie Hebdo’s attorney, Richard Malka, told a French radio station that the new issue — to be published Wednesday — would contain images of Muhammad. “We will not give in,” he said. ‘The spirit of ‘Je suis Charlie’ means the right to blaspheme.”
Several other Post blogs reproduced Charlie Hebdo covers last week, but there is debate about whether those featured Muhammad or were of a generic Muslim man. The Post’s editorial page, which is edited independently from its news section, reproduced a 2011 Muhammad cover from Charlie Hebdo last week after the massacre.
The masked gunmen who attacked Charlie Hebdo’s office declared that the Islamic prophet was “avenged” by their rampage. The provocative publication has a long history of publishing cartoons that are offensive to Muslims, Jews and Christians.
American news organizations have wrestled with whether to reproduce Muhammad cartoons ever since a Danish publication sparked a worldwide fury by publishing satirical images of the prophet in 2005.
Although many online publications, among them the Huffington Post, Gawker, Buzzfeed and Vox, reproduced the controversial Charlie Hebdo cartoons last week, a number of “legacy” news organizations declined, including The Washington Post, ABC, NBC, the New York Times, Associated Press and CNN.
CNN President Jeff Zucker reportedly said at a staff meeting that he was motivated by concerns about the safety of his news organization’s journalists.
The latest Charlie Hebdo cover was created by one of its longtime cartoonists, Rénald Luzier, who goes by the pen name “Luz.” He arrived late for an editorial meeting at the publication’s offices last week, narrowly avoiding the shootings that took the lives of his colleagues and two French police officers.
“Now, after the deaths, the shoot-outs, the violence, everything has changed,” Luz said in an interview with the French culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles. “All eyes are on us, we’ve become a symbol, just like our cartoons.”
The newspaper plans to publish 3 million copies of the new issue, up from its usual press run of about 65,000.