The sale of seven million copies of the magazine Charlie Hebdo featuring a front page cartoon depicting an image purporting to be that of Muhammad has brought forth its first bloody response from the Islamic world – Niger – where reportedly three people have been killed and six churches attacked and looted.
Riots and protests in Algeria, Somalia, Pakistan and Jordan have added fuel to the rapidly growing feeling of resentment and hostility that Charlie Hebdo has inflamed.
Niger's President - Mahamadou Issoufou - was one of six African heads of state who attended the unity march in Paris last Sunday in the aftermath of the horrific massacres in the offices of Charlie Hebdo and a Kosher supermarket - that saw 17 people murdered in cold blood by terrorists identifying themselves with Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
Niger, Algeria, Somalia, Pakistan and Jordan are all members of the 57 States comprising the Organisation of Islamic Co-Operation.
President Issoufou – reacting to the outbreak of the violence in Niger - angrily declared:
Those who loot these places of worship, who desecrate them and kill their Christian compatriots... have understood nothing of Islam..
"Understanding nothing of Islam" could however be equally applied to those seven million readers (with possibly still more to come) who eagerly snapped up the latest edition of Charlie Hebdo – a publication that normally sells 60000 copies – supposedly in support of the right of "freedom of expression" as proclaimed by French President Francois Hollande:
…France has principles and values, in particular freedom of expression.
Hollande had apparently abandoned the moral high ground he initially took on January 7 - following the attack on Charlie Hebdo – when he gave this response:
France is in shock – the shock of an attack, because it's a terrorist attack, there's no doubt about that – against a newspaper that had already been threatened on several occasions and had consequently been under protection. At such times, we must stand together as one, show that we are a united country and that we can react properly, with firmness, but always with concern for national unity.
Shooting civilians in cold blood in their offices and in a supermarket needed to be condemned and swiftly ended. No State can possibly permit such conduct within its borders nor can any such conduct be justified on any grounds whatsoever – no matter who or what is the target.
But was cocking your nose an appropriate response to the sensitivities and feelings of 1.4 billion Moslems around the world - 4.7 million of whom were estimated in 2010 by the Pew Report to live in France and comprise 7.5% of France's population - by publishing another depiction of Muhammad contrary to what many Moslems believe to be the precepts of Islam?
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