The latest edition of Charlie Hebdo hit newsstands across the globe this morning, one week after armed gunmen stormed the offices of the French satire magazine, killing 12. This week's magazine features an image of the Prophet Mohammed in tears and holding a sign that reads "Je suis Charlie," a slogan of unity that has become ubiquitous across France and the world following last week's terrorist attacks. Even before last week's massacre, the magazine had been targeted by terrorist groups and fundamentalists for mocking the prophet, though its remaining staff insisted on featuring Mohammed on today's cover. Above the image of the prophet is a headline that reads "all is forgiven."
Newsstands across Paris this morning were flooded with customers, and many sold out their entire Charlie Hebdo stock within minutes. The owner of a newsstand near the Louvre museum in central Paris told The Verge there were about 150 people waiting outside when he opened his doors at 9 AM this morning, and he sold out within 10 minutes. The owner added that he's ordered 300 more copies for later this week.
Three million copies of Charlie Hebdo were printed for distribution across France and other countries this week, far more than its usual circulation of 60,000. The magazine raised its print run to 5 million today following this morning's frenzy. The decision to run an image of Mohammed on its cover — which, as many have noted, looks like a penis with two hairy balls when held upside down — has stirred the anger of leaders in the Muslim world, raising fears of further retribution. Also on Wednesday, Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack on Charlie Hebdo's offices, saying it ordered it because the magazine insulted the prophet. Cartoons and other material critical of the Prophet Mohammed are widely considered blasphemous by many Muslims.
Those who lined up outside say the cover embodies the layered and sometimes misunderstood satire of the magazine, which lost many of its most famous cartoonists during last week's siege.
"People can believe whatever they want, and it doesn't impact my own relationship with the religion."
"I think there's multiple layers of reading it," says Benoît Rey, a 38-year-old Frenchman who unsuccessfully tried to buy a copy at 9 AM this morning at a newsstand outside Paris. "You can see the emotion of the guy behind it, it's all about forgiveness... I don't think it's offensive." He estimates there were about 50 people outside his normally sleepy neighborhood stand this morning, adding that he wanted to buy a copy because "it's a moment of history" and because he wanted to see if the famously provocative magazine "still has balls."
Elif, a Turkish-French economist based in Paris, says she woke up at 6AM today to buy a copy of the magazine as a way to support free speech and media, which have come under fire in her native Turkey. "The new generation needs to understand why it's important to have freedom of press," says Elif, 35, who requested that her name not be printed in full. "I am also Muslim, I am also not happy with the drawings of the prophet, but I know the joke... People can believe whatever they want, and it doesn't impact my own relationship with the religion." She was unsuccessful in her bid to buy a copy this morning, but her father managed to find one that was partially printed in a newspaper in Turkey.
Others say they bought the magazine to support Charlie Hebdo, which was under financial duress prior to last week's attack, and received financing from a Google-backed fund and other companies to help continue operations following the violence. "I was profoundly touched by what happened," says Chiara Degli Esposti, 43, who had never bought an issue of Charlie Hebdo but felt compelled to do so this morning in Bologna, Italy, where she works as a civil servant. "I wanted to make a small contribution to the victims of the attack."
Some who weren't able to buy the magazine today have reserved copies for later in the week, while others have put their issues for sale online, where they've been met with high demand. In the UK, print copies of the magazine are selling for more than $1,000 on eBay.