Swedish Muslims react to new Charlie Hebdo

With three million copies of Charlie Hebdo's latest issue sold out by Wednesday afternoon and two million more scheduled to be printed, The Local's Norhan Elhakeem asked Swedish Muslims what they thought about the magazine's contentious cartoons.

Swedish Muslims react to new Charlie Hebdo
Stockholm-based Muslim Selma says is saddened by the Charlie Hebdo cover. Photo: The Local
Charlie Hebdo did on Wednesday what it has always done best: provoke. The cover on its latest issue depicts a man supposed to represent the Prophet Muhammed holding up a sign which reads, "Je suis Charlie". Above the image are the words 'Tout est pardonné', that is 'All is forgiven.'
A typical print run for the weekly magazine is just 60,000 issues, but millions bought it on Wednesday, and profits from sales of the January 14th issue will reportedly to go to the victims' families.

Some have argued that the latest cover of the self-proclaimed "irresponsible magazine" sarcastically suggests that the Prophet himself would forgive the murder of its staff. Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Renald Luzier, who survived the attack because he was late for work that day, told AFP: "Our Mohammed is above all just a guy who is crying. He is much nicer than the one followed by the gunmen."
Inside the magazine, surviving members of the magazine staff mock the gunmen who slaughtered their colleagues. The special 15-page issue includes a centre spread of cartoons, the main one depicting the Arc de Triomphe and scenes from the massive Paris rally on Sunday that gathered 1.6 million people and dozens of world leaders. Its title reads: "More people for 'Charlie' than for Mass."  
Another image shows the gunmen arriving in paradise and asking for 70 virgins, only to be told that "They're with the Charlie team, losers."

The French Council of the Muslim Religion and the Union of French Islamic Organizations released a statement asking the Muslim community to "stay calm and avoid emotive reactions that are incompatible with its dignity … while respecting freedom of opinion."

Here in Sweden, local Muslims are reporting similar calls at their neighbourhood mosques.
Patrons of the Stockholm Mosque in Södermalm, Stockholm's largest, reported that last week's Friday sermon focused entirely on denouncing the murders in Paris and reminding Muslims that the kind of act of violence taken against the publication and its staff is a far cry from what Islam stands for.
Muslims nonetheless continue to be extremely critical of the paper's approach, as they have consistently been in the past, calling it disrespectful, provocative, and cheap.
"This paper, they don't really believe in anything," one Muslim Nadia, who moved from her native Algeria to Sweden almost 30 years ago told The Local.
"People should respect each other, it is a question of humanity. We are not animals," she added. "We must be careful not to hurt people's feelings. That is what Islam teaches, that we are to love one another, and be kind. Everything [Charlie Hebdo] does goes contrary to that."
The French-speaking Swede who described close ties to the large Algerian community of Muslims in France vehemently denounced the violence last week.
"The Prophet loved everyone – even his enemies," she said. "If he were alive today, I believe he would simply have said to those people offending him 'May God show you the right way, the way of love."
Hadeel, another native Algerian Muslim chipped in: "The Prophet was always smiling," she said. "Everything he taught was about forgiveness, he was very kind to animals, and taught people that even animals should be highly respected. In a way this teaches us that humans therefore owe humans the utmost respect."
Stockholm Mosque on Wednesday. Photo: The Local
Soheib, on his way into the Södermalm mosque to fulfill a Muslim ritual afternoon prayer, spoke firmly about Charlie Hebdo.
"What they do is hurtful to Muslims," he said. "But as Muslims we must be careful with our reactions, we must simply not acknowledge them or give them attention, because that is what they want."
Soheib argued that the French satirical paper served absolutely no purpose in society beyond offending people and "seeking attention", with no educational purpose.
"Their goal is to provoke," he said.
"They want to try to get Muslims to have violent reactions, because that's what they believe we are…But as Muslims, we must not be provoked. We must not respond at all."
Selma, a Swede who migrated from Egypt over 30 years ago, said she is saddened by the provocative images the paper printed on Wednesday.
"The Prophet, in our view, is not an ordinary individual," she explained, on her way to attend a funeral service. "He was a blessed individual, with a pure heart void of bad character. Seeing him reduced to any image is for us, blasphemous.
The violent reaction, she said, is however completely unmandated and has done nothing but give Muslims a bad reputation.
"We're absolutely against that anybody has taken the matters to that level," she said, pointing out that legal channels are available for Muslims in the West to use in dealing with such matters.
"Obviously, this gives Muslims a bad name and this hurts all of us. If the Prophet were alive, he would never have had such reaction."
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