Terrorist attacked the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists on Wednesday, killing 12 staffers, including the satirical magazine’s editor-in-chief and other employees while they held the first meeting of the year.
While reports that police have located the three suspects sought are surfacing at this time, people are gathering to show solidarity with the victims and take a stand in the face of intimidation by whatever group is behind the attack in Paris. But what did Charlie Hebdo do to deserve such a fate and what does the name actually mean?
The first and most important thing to keep in mind is that Charlie Hebdo published satirical cartoons making fun of everything and everyone, not only the Prophet Mohammad. French authorities had asked Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier — who was reportedly killed by the gunmen — to stop releasing what many Muslims saw as offensive cartoons.
Charbonnier declined, saying that he would rather die than live on his knees in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2013. Charb’s eerie words are coming back to haunt those who are dealing with the aftermath of the deadliest attack in Paris in two decades.
“It just so happens I’m more likely to get run over by a bicycle in Paris than get assassinated.”
“It’s not Islam attacking France, it’s one person attacking another person, that’s all.”
The left-leaning satirical publication has been harassed for its irreverent portrayals of the holiest figure in Islam, the Prophet Mohammad. The building that housed Charlie Hebdo was firebombed in 2011 after it published cartoons mocking Mohammad.
But the extravagant publication didn’t only make fun of Islam, it also had extremely offensive cartoons about Jesus and the Virgin Mary, which are revered by millions of Christians around the world. Readers can judge by themselves by looking at these examples posted on Twitter.
This Charlie Hebdo cartoon makes fun of baby Jesus being born of Mary.
Un enfant. Un papa, une maman. Seulement quand ça les arrange, en fait. pic.twitter.com/ekO2HCNZwL
— Charlie Hebdo (@Charlie_Hebdo_) December 19, 2014
Another popular character with cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo was North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un. Here they appear to be making fun of the self-censorship that Sony Pictures imposed on itself after being threatened by hackers if they released their film, The Interview.
French President Francois Hollande didn’t escape the sharp wit of Charlie Hebdo cartoonist.
Une bonne nouvelle pour le président à la une du dernier numéro de l’année! pic.twitter.com/0t4hB3k61F
— Charlie Hebdo (@Charlie_Hebdo_) December 30, 2014
The publication came to be in 1969 with the name Hara-Kiri — in reference to the Japanese form of ritual suicide — and it was controversial from the beginning. Shortly after the death of French President Charles de Gaulle and just a week after a massive fire killed more than 140 people in a nightclub, Charlie Hebdo cartoons mocked news coverage of the tragedy with a headline that read, in part: “One dead.”
Hara-Kiri was subsequently banned, but it didn’t disappear. Instead, it resurfaced with a different name, Charlie Hebdo. Charlie is used to reference de Gaulle and Hebdo is a short version of the word hebdomadaire, which means weekly.
The Collective Against Islamophobia spokeswoman Sumeja Rahmani said in a 2013 interview with the Times that the cartoons harmed the sensitivities of the large Islamic population in France.
“Socially speaking, France is in a bad state. What are these cartoons worth other than ridiculing Muslims more and devaluing them, insulting and offending them?”
Charlie Hebdo re-published 12 cartoons — originally published in a Dutch newspaper in 2005 — which mocked the Prophet Mohammad and resulted in protests all around the Muslim world. In an editorial, the satirical magazine explained the reasoning behind their decision.
“Charlie is trying to analyze the controversy and its consequences. It’s a question of showing that the freedom of expression should be stronger than intimidation.”
Prophetic words after the savage murder of 12 people who worked at the Charlie Hebdo magazine and made their living with cartoons that made fun of religious figures and politicians.
[Image via Evening Standard/Twitter]