Charlie Hebdo’s defiant, emotional return

An early look at the new Charlie Hebdo cover, the first issue of the satirical magazine to be printed since 12 were killed in terrorist attacks last week, has arrived and it’s just as irreverent as ever. The magazine will be available on Wednesday but the cover image has already been widely seen all over the Internet.

The cartoon is a drawing of the Prophet Muhammed seen against a green background. The Prophet, looking chagrinned, holds up a sign that says “Je Suis Charlie,” a rallying cry used by protestors to express solidarity in the wake of last week’s newsroom attack. The words “All Is Forgiven” (or “Tout Est Pardonné” in French) are scrawled above his head. Across France, and the world, Muslim groups and scholars are expressing concern over what this image could stir up — it was repeated cartoons of Muhammed in Charlie Hebdo that led to the first wave of attacks. And death threats continue to surround those staffers who were not killed.

“We asked ourselves: ‘What do we want to say? What should we say? And in what way?’” Gerard Biard, one of the paper’s editors told the New York Times about what would go on this cover. “About the subject, unfortunately, we had no doubt.”

“We don’t know how to anything but laugh,” Biard said. He was on vacation the day gunmen stormed the office. “We decided we would do a normal edition, not a memorial issue.”

As for the cartoonist who drew the cover, that would be Renald Luzier. The only reason he wasn’t in the office last week when terrorists took over was because he had slept in. He arrived right after the attacks. At a news conference he spoke about his choice for the cover drawing saying, “I had the idea to draw Muhammad because he is my character. Because he exists when I draw him, because he is a character that caused our premises to be firebombed, and later to be treated as irresponsible provocateurs — while we are above all cartoonists who love to draw little guys, like when we were children.”

The paper has decided to print a record three million copies, orders of magnitude beyond their usual circulation of 60,000 with the help of left-wing daily newspaper Liberation. It will also be translated into 16 languages. The new issue will also honor the fallen editors and cartoonists by publishing their past work.

Since the attacks, millions of people have rallied to support the magazine as a symbol of free speech, marching under banners and tweeting their messages of solidarity under #JeSuisCharlie. The cover is a nod to them, and a statement that the paper will not be silenced.

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