Two Islamist newspapers in Turkey have caused a firestorm on social media after their headlines seemed to justify the massacre committed by Islamic fundamentalists in Paris.
Around 11:30 local time Wednesday morning, at least two masked gunmen attacked the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people, including two policemen, and critically injuring 5 more.
A few hours after gunmen raged through the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo shouting, “Allahu Akbar!” the Islamist Turkish newspaper Yeni Akit ran the headline “Attack on the Magazine That Provoked Muslims.” Numerous readers’ comments appeared on the newspaper’s Facebook page, hailing the massacre as “revenge” for the magazine’s decision to publish cartoons criticizing the Prophet Muhammad.
“I hope that they continue to kill the infidels,” wrote Mehmet Karakaya, while another reader, Durun Ali, wrote, “Thank you to those who did it.” The newspaper later changed the title to “The Great Provocation in Paris.”
The French media have named four of the Charlie Hebdo journalists reportedly killed in the attack. Along with the magazine’s editor and cartoonist, Stéphane Charbonnier, were three other cartoonists: Georges Wolinski, Bernard Verlhac, and Jean Cabut, the cartoonist behind a February 2006 front page depiction of Muhammad.
Paris’ terror alert has been placed at its highest level, and children have been evacuated from schools in the area where the attack occurred. Police officers have been deployed to guard newspaper offices, shopping centers, museums, and railway stations.
Türkiye, a newspaper close to the Turkish government, chose the headline “Attack on the Magazine That Insulted Our Prophet.” After a wave of reactions that accused the paper of “justifying a terrorist attack,” the newspaper modified the title slightly to “Attack on the Magazine That Published Ugly Cartoons of Our Prophet.”
Salman Rushdie, the author who was the subject of a fatwa issued by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini calling for his assassination, has come out in defense of the Paris magazine.
“I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must,” Rushdie said, “to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity.” He added, “‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, the Arab League and Al-Azhar, the main authority in Sunni Islam, have condemned the “terror attack” against the magazine.
In Turkey, Minister of Tourism and Culture Omer Celik, denounced what he called “an attack against humanity.” Celik said that he rejected “any confusion between Islam and this cowardly attack.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.