Egypt's Al-Azhar slams Charlie Hebdo for Mohammed cartoons reprint

Cairo (AFP) –


Egypt's highest Muslim authority Al-Azhar on Wednesday condemned French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's decision to reprint cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, as the trial opened over the subsequent 2015 terror attack on its Paris office.

"The insistence on the criminal act to republish these offensive cartoons embeds hate speech further and inflames the emotions of faithful followers of religions," Al-Azhar's Observatory for Combating Extremism said on its Facebook page.

Charlie Hebdo, whose taboo-breaking style makes it a beacon of free speech for many but a lightning rod of racial insensitivity for others, marked the start of Wednesday's trial by republishing the controversial cartoons that had angered Muslims globally.

Al-Azhar, also considered the foremost religious institution for Sunni Muslims, said the contentious decision to reprint the caricatures was "an unjustified provocation of the emotions of nearly two billion Muslims around the world".

Depictions of the Prophet Mohammed are deemed blasphemous in Islamic tradition.

Twelve people, including some of France's most celebrated cartoonists, were gunned down on January 7, 2015, when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi stormed the paper's offices in eastern Paris.

A day later, Amedy Coulibaly, who became close to Cherif Kouachi while they were in prison, killed a 27-year-old police officer, Clarissa Jean-Philippe, during a traffic check in Montrouge, outside Paris.

Coulibaly went on to kill four men, all Jews, during a hostage-taking at the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris on January 9.

He recorded a video saying the three attacks were coordinated and carried out in the name of extremist group Islamic State.

Egypt's Al-Azhar, the bastion of a moderate version of Sunni Islam, also condemned the terror attack on Charlie Hebdo's premises in its Wednesday statement, noting "Islam abhors any act of violence".