PARIS — The French newspaper that was targeted by Muslim gunmen this week in what appeared to be a planned massacre had also repeatedly printed vile mockeries of Jesus Christ, and its editor was stated to have been a self-professing atheist.
As previously reported, Wednesday’s attack occurred at approximately 12 noon local time at Charlie Hebdo, a weekly satirical publication with offices in Paris. In 2011, the newspaper was firebombed after publishing a caricature of Mohammad as its cover piece, and the following year, after Charlie Hebdo published additional cartoons mocking Mohammad, the government closed its embassies and schools in over 20 countries out of fear of retribution.
This week’s issue featured an Islamic caricature entitled “Still No Attacks in France,” which included a drawing of a Muslim fighter declaring, “Just wait—we have until the end of January to present our New Year’s wishes.” Just moments before the attack, staff at Charlie Hebdo Tweeted a cartoon featuring ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who issued best wishes for the new year.
But the newspaper not only poked fun at Muslim figures in its publication; it also repeatedly published cover stories with vulgar or blasphemous cartoons that mocked Christ.
One drawing featured a threesome engaged in sexual activity that read “the Father,” “the Son,” “the Holy Spirit” in an effort to make fun of those who oppose same-sex “marriage.”
Another issue was entitled “The True Story of Baby Jesus,” and included a photograph of a woman spreading her legs to give birth and baby Jesus flying out.
“What your pastor never dared tell you is finally revealed in this new gospel according to Riss (the cartoonist),” it read. “Because did you know that the baby Jesus was a child of sin, scourge of dragons, sandpit faith-healer, child-killer, blinder of men, hyperactive child-king, tormentor of His teachers, and apprentice prophet?”
A third featured a buck-toothed drawing of Jesus with Hitler standing behind his back, and the headline, “Jesus Returns,” and another cartoon showed Jesus nailed to the cross in a theater and complaining, “They are preventing me from applauding.” Yet another drawing depicted Jesus standing in between two women bearing their breasts with profanity written underneath.
Numerous other cover stories were printed with mockeries of Christ, who was often depicted nailed to the cross or making blasphemous statements.
Roman Catholics were also often the subject of satire, with some cartoons being sexually-charged. Charlie Hebdo was leveled with 13 lawsuits from Roman Catholics organizations over its content, with only one Muslim challenging the newspaper in court.
The newspaper’s editor, Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, was said to have been an atheist and used the paper in part to make fun of religion.
“This is a satirical paper produced by left-wingers, and when I say left-wingers that goes all the way from anarchists to communists to Greens, Socialists and the rest. Above all it is a secular and atheist newspaper,” he told Reuters in 2012.
Charbonnier died in Wednesday’s attack, which took the lives of nine other employees. He had received police protection in recent months after receiving death threats from Muslims over his controversial cartoons. The three Muslims who stormed the offices of Charlie Hebdo were heard yelling, “Allahu Akbar,” meaning “Allah is great,” as well as “The prophet has been avenged.”
“It just so happens that every time we deal with radical Islam we have a problem, and we get indignant or violent reactions,” he once said.
The massacre is being condemned by Christians and non-Christians alike, and some say that both Charbonnier and the Muslim attackers were wrong in their actions.