Charlie Hebdo message of forgiveness, defiance timely

Back on newsstands Wednesday, Charlie Hebdo was no longer available in minutes across the French capital city, something never seen before for the satirical weekly.

All outlets were also out of stock in the morning nationwide as the French flocked early to try to get their copy, much to the discontent of diehard opponents including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

A leader of the terrorist group claimed responsibility last night for the deadly rampage at France's satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, on Jan 11, stressing that the attack was years in the making.

Yet, the alleged "revenge" for Charlie Hebdo's depictions of the Prophet Muhammad might also turn sour for the terrorist group as the weekly publication's press run has now increased 50-fold from its usual 60,000 copies to 3 million translated into multiple languages.

The magazine's latest cover, which depicts the prophet - with a tear falling from his cheek, holding a sign that says, "Je suis Charlie" - above, the words "All Is Forgiven" are also a message of defiance, but also forgiveness, that we find more than timely.

Why defiance? The French journalists rightly reasserted that the freedom to express ones opinions not only applies to all, including supporters and opponents of any religious beliefs, but also involves tolerating people who are outspoken supporters of French secularity, namely the absence of religious involvement in government affairs as well as the absence of government involvement in religious affairs.

Without a doubt, French people believe that you have the right to question beliefs as long as you challenge them in a non-violent way.

At the same time, the country has been defending the criminalization of hate speech, meaning that denying the Holocaust, inciting racism and making an apology for terrorism are serious crimes punishable by fines or even prison time.

In this sense, Charlie Hebdo's new cover is also a nearly perfect response to the tragedy with its unexpected focus on forgiveness.

Without backing down from the depiction of Muhammad and exercising their free speech rights, the message is more conciliatory and will hopefully reduce the anger directed to the Muslim communities in France.

We also think that it's a hand stretched out toward others, the expression of appeasement in a society completely disoriented by these heinous attacks.

Outside of France, however, this could be a different story as many Muslims still claim their "right not to be offended" or "not to be insulted".

Many countries have indeed passed various blasphemy laws limiting the freedom of speech and expression relating to holy personages, religious artifacts, customs or beliefs, and, by extension, stressing the concept of "censorship of ideas."

On Monday, Amnesty International reported that Saudi Arabian rights activist Raif Badawi received the first of 20 flogging sessions imposed by a Saudi court after creating an online forum meant to encourage discussion about faith in 2008.

The human rights groups deplored the flogging, describing Badawi as a prisoner of conscience whose only "crime" was to "exercise his right to freedom of expression by setting up a website for public discussion."

As it is clear that this incident and the latest French cartoons are unrelated, we hope that moderate Muslims, who have the right to be hurt and angered at the depicting of the prophet, will look at satire as having a purpose in mocking the powers that be and unearned privileged, instead of making provocations and defamation.

After all, enduring patience, tolerance, gentleness and mercy are often considered central to the character of religious figures.

That could also be a possible reflection of the teachings of the prophet Muslims love and are angered on behalf of.