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Post-attack Charlie Hebdo cover uses prophet cartoon

Charlie Hebdo via Twitter

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo will publish a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed along with the words "All is forgiven" Wednesday on the cover of its first issue since Islamist militants killed 12 people at its central Paris offices.

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In a further show of defiance, the fearless magazine announced it would print three million copies – not the usual 60,000 – when it reappears on newsstands on Wednesday.

It will also be translated into six languages including English, Arabic and Turkish, editor-in-chief Gérard Biard told a Paris news conference Tuesday.

Daily newspaper Libération, which hosted Charlie Hebdo staff as they prepared the new issue, published the Charlie Hebdo cover online late Monday night. Further details about the magazine’s inside content have emerged since.

The cartoon on the front cover shows a bearded man in a white turban with a tear streaming down his cheek, and holding a sign reading “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie”). Overhead was the phrase: “Tout est Pardonné” (“All is Forgiven”).

Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist with the newspaper, said the cover meant that the journalists had forgiven the extremists for the killings.

Renald Luzier, the cartoonist who drew the cover image and who is known by his pen name “Luz,” said it represents “just a little guy who’s crying.” Then he added, unapologetically, “Yes, it is Mohammed.”

Defence of secularism

Speaking at Tuesday’s press conference, where he repeatedly broke down in tears, he described weeping after he drew the picture.

“I had this idea in my head but it was not enough to make the cover,” he said.

“All I had was this idea of drawing Mohammed and ‘Je suis Charlie’.... I looked at him, and he was crying. Above him I wrote ‘all is forgiven’ and then I cried."

The issue maintains the irreverent, often offensive attitude Charlie Hebdo is known for in France.

The first two pages feature drawings by the slain cartoonists. One shows a much-loved late French nun talking about oral sex. Another shows a Muslim, Christian and Jewish leader carving up the world.

The lead editorial lays out a vigorous defence of secularism, of the right to lampoon religions and religious leaders and hold them accountable – and ends with a critique of the pope.

“For the past week, Charlie, an atheist newspaper, has achieved more miracles than all the saints and prophets combined. The one we are most proud of is that you have in your hands the magazine that we always made,” it read.

It also heartily thanked the millions around the world who have supported it.

Only the French, Italian and Turkish versions will go into print, the other three – English, Spanish and Arabic – will be offered in electronic form, Biard said.

Muslim leaders appeal for calm

Charlie Hebdo’s past caricatures of the Muslim prophet appear to have prompted last week’s attacks, part of the worst terrorist rampage in France in decades.

Some witnesses reported that the attackers at the paper’s offices shouted “We have avenged the prophet.” Some Muslims believe all images of the prophet are blasphemous.

Earlier Monday, Charlie Hebdo lawyer Richard Malka told French radio that the new issue would “obviously” feature cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The front cover has already drawn mixed reactions from Muslims in France and overseas.

Egypt's state-sponsored Islamic authority, Dar al-Ifta, quickly denounced it as "an unjustified provocation against the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims".

The rector of Paris's mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, however, urged France's Muslims "to remain calm" over the cover "by avoiding emotional reactions... and respecting freedom of opinion".

The head of a big mosque in central eastern Paris, Hammad Hammami, took a similar stand. "We don't want to throw oil on the fire," he said. "We consider these caricatures to be acceptable. They are not degrading for the prophet”.

A total of 17 people died in last week’s attacks. Brothers Chérif and Said Kouachi and their friend, Amédy Coulibaly, were killed Friday by police after the murderous spree at the Charlie Hebdo offices and a kosher supermarket in the southeast of the capital. The three all claimed ties to Islamic extremists in the Middle East.

French police said Monday that as many as six members of a terrorist cell involved in the attacks may still be at large.

France saw its biggest demonstrations in history Sunday as millions turned out to show unity and defend freedom of expression.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)

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