January 13, 2015 – While last week’s attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo sparked global outrage, dozens of people in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar paid tribute to the brothers who carried out the murders.
Though small in scale, the event was indicative of the anger that portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed can ignite in some parts of the Muslim world, particularly in Pakistan where tough blasphemy laws make insulting the Prophet a crime punishable by death. Local cleric Maulana Pir Mohammad Chishti led some 60 people in prayers for Cherif and Said Kouachi, who shot dead 12 people at the magazine’s offices on Jan 7, as worshippers called the pair “martyrs”.
They also chanted “Death to Hebdo publications” and “Long live Cherif Kouachi, long live Said Kouachi”, and kissed posters of the brothers who were shot dead by police two days later. “These two brothers have paid the debt of all Muslims in the world and we present them our salute and respect,” Chishti said.
Aurangzeb Alhafi, professor of Islamic Studies at Punjab University in the eastern city of Lahore said he attended the prayers as a religious duty. “If freedom of expression stops at the mention of the Holocaust, then it should also stop at the honour of our Prophet,” Alhafi said.
Fourteen people are languishing on death row in Pakistan for falling fall of its blasphemy laws, which rights groups say are used to persecute minorities and wage personal vendettas. Mobs often take matters in their own hands and lynch those accused of blasphemy, and such killers are widely feted.
Charlie Hebdo meanwhile has announced it will defy the attackers by putting a cartoon of a weeping Prophet Mohammed on its next cover.