Newsagent Ila Aghera (Image courtesy of Facebook)
A British-Hindu shopkeeper has vowed to sell copies of the new issue of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as a way of supporting freedom of expression.
Ila Aghera, who runs Forge News in the wealthy Gloucestershire village of Charlton Kingshas, said she has stocked more than 100 copies of the issue which features a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed mourning last week’s massacre at the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris.
Mrs Aghera, 54, said that whilst she was “nervous” about the response she would receive, she was determined to go ahead because she felt an obligation to highlight for future generations that the killings had been carried out over a “silly cartoon”.
She told the Gloucestershire Echo: “I am nervous. I’m shaking now, I’m only a little village shop but I don’t care because what I am doing is right. We will be selling it from Friday. I think I’m the first one to do it. I might be old-fashioned but I’m not going to be scared. I’m selling it as a one-off.”
“All age groups should know what happened. What happened in France is very upsetting, it was very wrong – for a silly cartoon that was a joke to make people laugh.
“’Private Eye’ is a satirical magazine. It’s hilarious. Everybody takes the mickey out of everybody, so I can’t believe somebody would do this over some cartoons”, the mother-of-two added.
Charlie Hebdo, which has a usual weekly run of about 60,000 copies, has decided to print more than twenty times that number in the wake of the attacks which left nine journalists – including the magazine’s celebrated cartoonists – dead along with an office worker and two police officers.
The latest edition will be printed in French, Italian, Turkish, Spanish as well as Arabic.
The front cover of this week’s edition runs with the headline ‘All is Forgiven’ and features a cartoon of the Prophet holding a sign reading ‘Je Suis Charlie’, the Twitter hashtag that was created in the aftermath of the 7 January attacks in a worldwide show of solidarity with the victims.
The image is the work of cartoonist Renald Luzier, who survived the attack after getting late for work.
Only about 2000 copies have been imported to Britain with some already appearing on ebay where bids have topped £500. Most major broadcasters and print outlets have refused to show the cover.
Some Muslim leaders have condemned the new issue as a “deliberate provocation” whilst others have applauded its more conciliatory tone.
Founded in 1970, the magazine has built a reputation for sparking controversy and had come under attack on a number of previous occasions after printing cartoons that mocked the Prophet Mohammed and extremist interpretations of Islam.
The magazine had also previously lampooned the Pope, French politicians, public figures and celebrities.