This morning, twelve staffers of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hedbo were executed by alleged Islamist extremists in retaliation for their mocking of Islam — a longstanding practice of the magazine, given these defiant interviews with Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier, who was murdered in this morning’s attacks.
“We didn’t feel like we could kill somebody with a pen,” he told Le Monde two years ago in a statement (loosely translated), explaining why he continued to publish outrageously controversial comics. “This may sound pompous, but I prefer to die standing up than live on my knees.”
“We publish caricatures every week, but people only describe them as declarations of war when it’s about the person of the Prophet or radical Islam,” Charbonnier, who commonly goes as “Charb,” told Der Spiegel in a longer interview shortly after their offices were destroyed in a fire in retaliation for a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad:
“Extremists don’t need any excuses,” he added. “We are only criticizing one particular form of extremist Islam, albeit in a peculiar and satirically exaggerated form. We are not responsible for the excesses that happen elsewhere, just because we practice our right to freedom of expression within the legal limits…
“If we worried about the consequences of each of our drawings in each of our 1,057 issues, then we would have had to close shop a long time ago.” Nevertheless, he is grateful for the protection of the police, who he says “politely and with concern” inquired about the contents of the new issue already while it was being printed. “It’s crazy,” says the cartoonist with a smile. “Of all publications, our magazine, which mocks the police at every opportunity, is now protected by it. Which only goes to show that freedom of speech is protected in our country.”
There will continue to be no taboos at Charlie Hebdo in the future. “It should be as normal to criticize Islam as it is to criticize Jews or Catholics,” Charbonnier says. Is he afraid of attacks or violence directed against him and his colleagues? “I have neither a wife nor children, not even a dog. But I’m not going to hide.”
Charbonnier’s comics landed him on an al Qaeda Most Wanted list years ago, along with Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
[h/t The Daily Beast]
[Image via Coyau/Wikimedia Commons]
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