Heated Debate over Sharia Law: Arson Attack on French Satirical Magazine

Analysis, posted 11.16.2011, from France, in:
Heated Debate over Sharia Law: Arson Attack on French Satirical Magazine (Photo: dpa)

Speculation in the case of the weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo continues more than a week after the event. On the night of 1 – 2 November two-thirds of the magazine's offices in Paris were destroyed in a fire. The blaze was triggered when a firebomb was thrown at the building. The fire at the editorial offices of the left-wing liberal publication broke out around 1am.

The following morning the newsstands were selling an especially sensational edition of the paper, which is famous for its anti-clerical, derisive stance. Titled Charia Hebdo ("Sharia Weekly"), it stated that the issue's guest editor was non other than the Prophet Mohammad.

A connection between the two events cannot be ruled out, but has so far not been proven. Some of the journalists working on the magazine have expressed suspicions that the attack could also have been the work of right-wing extremists seeking to fan the flames of existing social tensions.

Targeted by Turkish hackers

The publication's website was also targeted by hackers. The originators have since been identified as a group of young hackers from Turkey known as Akincilar.

One of them, 20-year-old Ekber alias "Black Apple", admitted to hacking the site in the Journal du Dimanche. He explained that his group wanted to register its protest to what it deemed to be an insult to the Prophet Mohammad. But at the same time, Ekber and the other Akincilar activists have distanced themselves from the firebomb attack: "Of course, we do not advocate violence of any kind," said Ekber.

For the editorial team at the satirical magazine, their special "Charia Hebdo" edition was primarily a reaction to the results of elections in Tunisia and the announcement by new leaders in Libya that Islamic Sharia law would be the source of legislation.

The decision to run this title was undoubtedly wrong, as it is an inaccurate and misleading reference to the recent outcome of the Tunisian poll. The winning party, "Ennahda", or "Renaissance" did not make any pledge to introduce Sharia law during its campaign. On the contrary, it advocates the retention of existing civil and family legal codes.

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By Bernard Schmid

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