(Please note offensive language in fourth paragraph)
By Brian Love
PARIS, Sept 19 Sometimes funny, often crass,
always irreverent. Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly
that has published lewd cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad is a
serial offender and proud of it.
As copies of the magazine priced at 2.50 euros ($3.25) flew
off French news stands on Wednesday, its publishers insisted as
always on their right to poke fun at all symbols of political
and religious authority in the name of freedom of expression.
Several of the caricatures relied on drawings of genitals to
mock the furore over a film made in the United States that
depicts the Prophet as a lecher, confirming Charlie Hebdo's
reputation for no-limits satire.
"To me, these religious hardliners who protest and kill over
a crappy film are no different to the people who made the crappy
film. They're all the same pack, a bunch of assholes," editor
Stephane Charbonnier, under police protection since printing
similar caricatures last November, told Reuters.
Some of the cartoonists who work with him now are diehards
who worked in the 1960s for a publication - Hara-Kiri - whose
self-proclaimed ambition was to be "inane and nasty".
That publication was banned in 1970 after publishing a mock
death notice inspired by two events that traumatised the nation
- the death of General Charles de Gaulle at his country abode in
Colombey, east of Paris, and a discotheque blaze that killed
close to 150 people.
"Ball tragedy in Colombey. One dead," Hara-Kiri said in a
headline that led to it being ordered shut.
Reborn as Charlie Hebdo months later, the tradition remained
the same - viscerally anti-establishment and critical of all
It once greeted the Pope, head of the Roman Catholic faith,
with a headline that read "Bienvenu au Pape de merde", words
that roughly translate as "Welcome crappy pope".
This week's foray followed another in November 2011 when the
weekly enraged Muslims by renaming itself Charia Hebdo, a play
on the French word for Islamic sharia law, and in 2006 when it
republished Danish cartoons that caused protests and at least 50
To this day, it sticks steadfastly to a tradition that makes
waves, and more money when the waves crash hard.
"This is a satirical paper produced by left-wingers and when
I say left-wingers that goes all the way from anarchists to
communists to Greens, Socialists and the rest. Above all it is a
secular and atheist newspaper," said Charbonnier, who signs his
own sketches and goes by the name of "Charb".
"When we attack the Catholic hard right...nobody talks about
it in the papers. It's as if Charie Hebdo has official
authorisation to attack the Catholic hard right. But we are not
allowed to make fun of Muslim hardliners. It's the new
rule...but we will not obey it," he says.
Charbonnier said the heavy demand meant he would print a
fresh run of about 70,000 copies to meet demand for the latest
controversial edition, as it did when it made waves last year.
($1 = 0.76 euros)
(Editing by Mark John and Angus MacSwan)