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French mag to stir up fresh prophet row

world Updated: Jan 01, 2013 01:16 IST

The French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which sparked controversy and legal complaints after publishing cartoons of Muhammad, will this week release a special edition illustrated biography of the Muslim prophet.

Its editor, Stéphane Charbonnier, known as Charb, made the announcement to Agence France-Presse (AFP), arguing that Life of Muhammad would be "perfectly halal" because it was a compilation of all that had been written about the prophet in the past by Muslim writers and they had "simply put it into images".

The anti-establishment publication, which says its cartoonists are atheists who are interested in satirising all religions, claimed it was publishing a profile to learn more about the prophet. "Before you can have a laugh about a character, it's better to know him," Charb told AFP. He denied the special edition was an act of provocation.

Many Muslims object to representations of Allah or Muhammad and to irreverent treatment of the Qur'an.

Charlie Hebdo, which must sell 30,000 issues of its weekly magazine from news-stands to keep afloat, has routinely seen sales double or magazines sell out each time it has run controversial cartoons of Muhammad. In September, the magazine attracted rare criticism from French government ministers when it published cartoons of a naked Muhammad amid violent global protests over an amateur anti-Islam film.. That edition sold out within hours.

French embassies and cultural centres were closed in about 20 Muslim countries after the government feared a backlash. Two organisations have launched legal complaints, accusing the magazine of incitement to racial hatred and defamation.

In 2006, Charlie Hebdo republished the Muhammad cartoons that had sparked worldwide protests when they originally ran in Denmark. A Paris court later threw out an attempt by two Muslim organisations to sue for incitement to hatred.

In 2011, a special edition of Charlie Hebdo entitled Sharia Hebdo featured a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad on the cover as "guest-editor", saying: "100 lashes if you don't die of laughter!" Just before it was published, the magazine's offices were firebombed.

The Guardian