Correction: When I first published this article on January 13th, 2014, I mistakenly reported that Anaheim Muslims affiliated with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) would be holding a media availability in Washington DC concerning the recent Charlie Hebdo cover. CAIR has many chapters. One is in Anaheim, but the organization has headquarters in Washington DC. I have no clue if any Muslims from Anaheim were present in Washington DC for the “media availability.” I apologize for the inaccurate reporting. I am re-posting now, because I received an e-mail from someone who liked the article but couldn’t find it.
The headline of the article and the content have been changed to reflect a more accurate account of events from last week.
The Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, France live on in the minds of the masses. The surviving employees of the magazine have created a cover for their latest issue. It is due to hit newsstands tomorrow. In this cover, Mohammad is holding a sign that reads, “Je Suis Charlie.” Translated into English, that means “I Am Charlie.” The headline for the magazine is “All Is Forgiven.” Though this is a nicer image of Mohammad than ones produced by the magazine in the past, there are still offended Muslims. Many Muslims believe any depiction of Mohammad is offensive if not blasphemous. CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) has decided to host a “media availability” in Washington DC tomorrow to offer comments on why they find the latest Charlie Hebdo cover offensive. Whether or not this is the correct discussion to be having at a time like this remains to be seen.
Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French magazine, has printed plenty of blasphemous content about major religions. Islam is just one of many. Their depictions of Mohammad speak more about the magazine than they do about Mohammad or Islam. Many of the depictions are distasteful by anyone’s standards. One features Mohammad making out with a Charlie Hebdo employee. They are both heavily drooling on themselves. Another features Mohammad warning readers, “100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter!” No one can pretend that their past magazine covers have been done in good taste.
However, their recent cartoon is not so nasty to Mohammad. Think for a moment on what this cartoon is saying. Obviously, forgiveness is the main message. The magazine is going to move on, free speech intact, and forgive those who wronged them. But there is another one. It’s the one that Muslims should focus on when they see that cover. It depicts a (blasphemous) picture of Mohammad identifying himself as Charlie Hebdo. The message is clear. When Muslim extremists attack Charlie Hebdo they are attacking Mohammad. Their actions are flying in the face of the teachings of their prophet.
CAIR may or may not choose to acknowledge that part of the message tomorrow. On their site, CAIR has a press release with more information about the organization’s stance on Charlie Hebdo’s new cover. The National Executive Director for CAIR stated, “Just as Charlie Hebdo has the right to publish, we have the right to peacefully challenge negative portrayals of our religious figures.” However, the director may be missing the point. That cover was not designed to be a negative portrayal. The tone is completely different from past Charlie Hebdo covers. It’s supposed to be about forgiveness; it’s supposed to be about what Mohammad would think of the attacks. The Quran commands that Muslims reflect, and hopefully the Muslims of CAIR will look at this latest cover and do just that.