By Tom Heneghan and John Irish
PARIS/BOBIGNY, France (Reuters) – Charlie Hebdo will publish a front page showing a caricature of the Prophet Mohammad holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie” in its first edition since Islamist gunmen attacked the satirical newspaper.
With demand surging for the edition due on Wednesday, the weekly planned to print up to 3 million copies, dwarfing its usual run of 60,000, after newsagents reported a rush of orders. Digital versions will be posted in English, Spanish and Arabic, while print editions in Italian and Turkish will also appear.
France has drafted in thousands of extra police and soldiers to provide security after 17 people were killed in three days of violence that began when two Islamist gunmen burst into Charlie Hebdo’s offices, opening fire in revenge for the paper’s publication of satirical images of Mohammad in the past.
In a parliamentary session honoring the victims, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said France was “at war against terrorism, jihadism and radical Islamism” but not the Muslim faith, the country’s second-largest, which “has its place in France”.
After his speech, lawmakers broke into a spontaneous rendition of La Marseillaise, a first in parliament’s history.
The front page of Charlie Hebdo’s Jan. 14 edition shows a tearful Mohammad with a sign “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) below the headline: “Tout est pardonné” (All is forgiven).
“I wrote ‘all is forgiven’ and I cried,” Renald Luzier, who drew the image, told journalists at the weekly’s temporary office at the headquarters of the left-wing daily Liberation.
“This is our front page … it’s not the one the terrorists wanted us to draw,” he said. “I’m not worried at all… I trust people’s intelligence, the intelligence of humor.”
RIGHT TO BLASPHEME
The new edition of Charlie Hebdo, known for its satirical attacks on Islam and other religions, will include other cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammad and also making fun of politicians and other religions, its lawyer said.
“We will not back down, otherwise none of this has any meaning,” Richard Malka told French radio. “If you hold the banner ‘I am Charlie’, that means you have the right to blaspheme, you have the right to criticize my religion.”
There was no official reaction from the French government on the new edition.
At a regular news briefing, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said: “We absolutely support the right of Charlie Hebdo to publish things like this. Again, that’s what happens in a democracy. Period.”
Egypt’s Grand Mufti warned Charlie Hebdo against publishing a new Mohammad caricature, saying it was a racist act that would incite hatred and upset Muslims around the world.
One Paris newspaper vendor said he had received 200 advance orders for Charlie Hebdo and was stopping there as he could no longer cope.
French Muslim leaders urged their community to keep calm and respect the right to freedom of expression.
“What is uncomfortable for us is the representation of the Prophet,” Abdelbaki Attaf told Reuters at the funeral in the northern Paris suburb of Bobigny of Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman shot trying to defend the Hebdo cartoonists.
“Any responsible Muslim will find it hard to accept that. But we shouldn’t ban it,” said Attaf, an administrator at the mosque in nearby Gennevilliers occasionally visited by Cherif Kouachi, one of the Hebdo killers.
A separate funeral was held in Jerusalem for four Jewish victims of a hostage-taking in a kosher grocery shop in Paris.
On Sunday, at least 3.7 million people throughout France marched in support for Charlie Hebdo and freedom of expression. World leaders linked arms to lead more than one million people through Paris in an unprecedented homage to the victims.
Three days of violence ended on Friday with a siege at the Jewish grocery in Paris where four hostages and a gunman were killed. Shortly before that, police killed the Hebdo attackers in a gun battle at a print works northwest of the city.
In the wake of the violence, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said 10,000 troops were being deployed at sensitive sites including synagogues, mosques and airports.
President Francois Hollande’s government has avoided referring to the Maghreb and African roots of the three killers. It has also sought to discredit their claim to be acting in the name of Islam, calling them “fanatics”.
However, France’s Islamic council called on the government to step up protection of mosques, saying that at least 50 anti-Islamic acts had been reported since the attack.
Abdallah Zekri, head of the National Observatory against Islamophobia, said Muslim sites such as Paris’s main mosque were not getting the same protection as Jewish synagogues or schools.
“There are websites out there calling for the murder of Muslim leaders and the torching of Muslim religious sites,” he told France Info. “Let’s stop the double standards.”
European leaders fear the events in France will add to rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe. On Monday, a record 25,000 anti-Islamist protesters marched through the German city of Dresden, many holding banners with anti-immigrant slogans.
Le Drian said the government would need to review some of its military capabilities following the attacks and raised the prospect of reconsidering the severely strained military budget when its long-term spending plan comes up for review later this year in parliament.
On Tuesday, the parliament voted overwhelmingly to approve France’s continued participation in air raids against Islamic State in Iraq. One of last week’s killers cited France’s military strikes against Muslims as a motivation for his acts.
“Islamic State is a terrorist army with fighters from everywhere,” Le Drian told Europe 1 radio. “It is an international army that has to be wiped out and that is why we are part of the coalition.”
(Additional reporting by Mark John, Leigh Thomas and Dominique Vidalon and Emile Picy, Doina Chiacu in Washington; writing by Mark John and Tom Heneghan; editing by Giles Elgood and Philippa Fletcher)