Charlie Hebdo: a timeline of controversy

The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were attacked in a terrorist shooting on Wednesday, has a long history of poking fun at religion - particularly Islam.

Charlie Hebdo: a timeline of controversy
A recent edition of satirical magazine Charlie HebdoPhoto: Bertrand Guay/AFP

This has won it praise from some freedom of speech campaigners, but has angered some Muslims and led to condemnation from the White House. Here are some of the major events in the controversial history of the magazine.

January 2013: the magazine publishes ‘The Life of Muhammad’, a cartoon biography depicting a goofy-looking prophet leading a camel through the desert. Editor Stéphane Charbonnier insisted that “higher-minded Muslims” couldn’t find anything inappropriate

September 2012: Charlie Hebdo publishes cartoons of a naked Muhammad, leading to the closure of French schools, embassies, consulates and cultural centres in 20 Muslim countries. 

The White House criticised the magazine over the cartoons

An 18-year old man was arrested over “terrorist-related activity” for making death threats against the editors on Facebook. 

November 2011: Charlie Hebdo’s offices are hit by a firebomb and its website hacked after publishing an edition called “Sharia Hebdo” purporting to be edited by Muhammad and featuring several Muhammad cartoons. It responded to the outrage by publishing a picture of a gay kiss between a Muslim man and one of its journalists on its cover. 

February 2006: In a dig at Islamic fundamentalists, the paper publishes a front-page cartoon showing the prophet Muhammad weeping and saying ‘it’s hard being loved by idiots’. It also republished twelve controversial cartoons of Muhammad from the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten. Then-president Jacques Chirac accused the paper of “overt provocations”. Publisher Philippe Val was sued by French Muslim groups, but a French court threw out the lawsuit in March 2007.