French newspaper offices destroyed by bomb

The offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris have been destroyed in a petrol bomb attack the day after it announced the Prophet Muhammad as its “editor-in-chief” for its next issue. The cover carried a caricature of the Prophet saying “100 lashes if you are not dying of laughter”. The attack followed several threats on Twitter and Facebook. The paper’s website was hacked and replaced by a photo of Mecca and suras from the Qur’an.

The editor-in-chief of the magazine, Stephane Charbonnier, said that Islam could not be excluded from freedom of the press: “If we can poke fun at everything inFrance, if we can talk about anything in France apart from Islam or the consequences of Islamism, that is annoying.”

In a statement on Tuesday, the magazine denied it was trying to be provocative and said it was motivated by the recent victory of the Islamist Ennadha party in elections inTunisia, and by indications that sharia law could form the basis of legislation in post-Gaddafi Libya.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said: “Freedom of expression is an inalienable right in our democracy and all attacks on the freedom of the press must be condemned with the greatest firmness. No cause can justify such an act of violence,” he said in a statement.

In 2007, Charlie Hebdo reprinted 12 controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that were first shown in a Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The paper is part of a deeply rooted French anti-clerical satirical culture, dating back to the heated debate about laïcité (secularism), which led in 1905 to the law separating of church and state in France.

See also:

More death threats as newspaper escalates Mohamed cartoon row

A disturbing development in secular, integrated France