Charlie Hebdo to Publish Mohammad Cartoon on Front Page

PARIS (Reuters) -

Charlie Hebdo will publish a front page showing a caricature of the founder of Islam holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie” in its first edition since Islamist terrorists attacked the satirical newspaper.

With demand surging for the edition due on Wednesday, the weekly planned to print up to 3 million copies, dwarfing its usual run of 60,000, after news agents reported a rush of orders. Digital versions will be posted in English, Spanish and Arabic, while print editions in Italian and Turkish will also appear.

The front page of Charlie Hebdo’s Jan. 14 edition shows a tearful Mohammad with a sign “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) below the headline: “Tout est pardonné” (All is forgiven).

“I wrote ‘all is forgiven’ and I cried,” Renald Luzier, who drew the image, told journalists at the weekly’s temporary office at the headquarters of the left-wing daily, Liberation.

“This is our front page … it’s not the one the terrorists wanted us to draw,” Luzier said. “I’m not worried at all… I trust people’s intelligence, the intelligence of humor.”

“We will not back down, otherwise none of this has any meaning,” the paper’s lawyer Richard Malka told French radio.

There was no official reaction from the government on the new edition.

French Muslim leaders urged their community to keep calm and respect the right to freedom of expression.

Abdelbaki Attaf spoke to Reuters at the funeral in the northern Paris suburb of Bobigny of Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman shot trying to defend the Hebdo cartoonists. Attaf said that the representation of the founder of Islam is “uncomfortable for us.”

“Any responsible Muslim will find it hard to accept that. But we shouldn’t ban it,” said Attaf, himself an administrator at the mosque in nearby Gennevilliers, a place occasionally visited by Cherif Kouachi, one of the Hebdo killers.