France in denial even a year after Charlie Hebdo

The black and white cover of its latest edition similar to Charlie Hebdo’s is to be released on Wednesday which displays a bearded religious figure hunched over a rifle slung across his back with spots of blood dot his arms and legs.

French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo is sending a clear message to its readers one year after armed militants carried out a shooting rampage in their Paris office: The threat of terrorism is still out there.

The news magazine plans to release 1 million copies, a portion of which will be sold internationally.

Wednesday’s special edition will also pay its respects to the deceased staffers with collections of their drawings.

Thursday marks one year since two al-Qaeda-linked Islamists, Cherif and Said Kouachi, stormed the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, slaughtering 12. The Kouachi brothers were later killed in a shootout with police.

The city of Paris plans to unveil commemorative plaques Tuesday as a tribute to the victims. And on Sunday, French President François Hollande will preside over a commemorative ceremony in Paris’ Place de la République.

Charlie Hebdo has a history of spurning controversy by drawing satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, as well as Christian and Jewish religious figures such as the pope.

Cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau, known as Riss, penned a scathing op-ed in the new issue calling out fanatics brutalized by the Quran who sought to silence the magazine for daring to make light of religion.

“They won’t watch Charlie crumble,” he added. “It’s Charlie that will watch them die.”

The big difference now is that this anniversary comes on the heels of the 13 November attacks in Paris, which shed crude light on the nature of violent jihadist and set France on an official war footing, transforming the political and legislative scene in worrying ways.

The latest image certainly irritated Catholic groups, with the Vatican’s newspaper Osservatore Romano lashing out at its disrespect for believers whatever their faith.

If, on 7 January 2015, freedom of expression was targeted, on 13 November, that could hardly be the main explanation. Nor could religious sensitivities be put forward as a motivation. Obviously, something more wide-ranging was at work: a danger for all, not just for cartoonists.

The French capital was once again forced to nervous high alert on Thursday after officers shot dead a man who tried to enter a police station in Paris wielding a meat cleaver and wearing a fake suicide vest on the first anniversary of the Charlie Hebdo attack.

The man approached the police station in the Goutte d’Or area, in Paris’s northern 18th arrondissement, between the Gare du Nord train station and the Sacre Coeur cathedral, at 11.30am one year almost to the minute since the gun massacre at the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo which left 12 people dead.

The area was sealed off and residents were told to close windows and stay away from balconies. Two nearby schools were closed with the children inside, as a precaution. But the device was found to be a fake and contained no explosives.

The three day killing spree by men born raised and radicalized in France stunned the country and led to soul searching about the state of French society and the ability of security services to keep tabs on known jihadist suspects.