On January 7, 2015, the office of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was attacked by terrorists, resulting in the death of 12 people. The reason why terrorists targeted this publication was the printing of 12 cartoons by the magazine which depicted Islam's prophet Mohammad. This violent act was attributed to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) organization.
Now, as the trial of 14 people connected to the terrorist act gets underway in France after a delay caused by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the irreverent and defiant publication has decided to reprint the controversial cartoons. The illustrations were originally published in a Danish newspaper in 2005 and had caused a lot of uproar in the Islamic world even then.
Charlie Hebdo announced on Tuesday through Twitter that they would be releasing a special edition on Wednesday which would not only cock a snook at the terrorist who targeted it but would also contain interviews with the families of those who were killed. There would also be a special article discussing the attitude of the general public towards freedom of expression.
This is not the first time that the magazine has decided to defy the threats of terrorism to itself. Even in 2015, just after the infamous attack, the authorities at Charlie Hebdo refused to back down and printed those same cartoons which had caused offense in the first place.
They had also received widespread support from the world over, not so much the Islamic world, through a campaign of 'Je Suis Charlie' (I am Charlie) – a statement of solidarity expressed by journalists, activists, and people.
However, many parts of the world took a more cautious approach to the problem. While condemning the terrorist attack and also showing their belief in free speech, they refused to endorse the cartoons and considered them a gratuitous provocation to the religious sentiments of Muslims.
Unfortunately for France, the country has become a leading battleground for forces of radical Islamism and assertive western modernism. The country had also passed a contentious law banning the burqa – the Islamic veil worn by some Muslim woman – a few years ago.
2015 was an especially bloody year for the European nation as it suffered more than one deadly attack. The violence at Charlie Hebdo was followed by two more days of incidents in which five more people were killed. Then, in November of that year, there were coordinated terrorist attacks of a larger magnitude which killed 137 people.