(CNSNews.com) – The Iranian regime on Wednesday condemned the publication in France of a collection of provocative cartoons lampooning supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, saying it would not accept the insult to “sanctities” and to Iran’s national and religious values.
The deliberately incendiary sketches, some of them involving sexual or vulgar imagery, were published by the notoriously irreverent satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, which had invited submissions for a special edition in a show support for Iranians, especially women and girls, protesting against the regime.
“It was a way of showing our support for the Iranian men and women who risk their lives to defend their freedom against the theocracy which has oppressed them since 1979,” wrote the magazine’s editor, Laurent Sourisseau.
The foreign ministry summoned the French ambassador, demanding he convey to Paris Iran’s anger over the cartoons.
“France has no right to justify insult to the sanctities of other nations and Islamic countries under the pretext of freedom of speech,” said ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran is awaiting an explanation and a redressing action on the part of the French government in order to deplore the unacceptable behavior of the French magazine.”
“The insulting and indecent act of a French publication in publishing cartoons against the religious and political authority will not go without a decisive and effective response,” tweeted Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.
“We will not allow the French government to go beyond its bounds. They have definitely chosen the wrong path,” he said, adding that the regime has added Charlie Hebdo to its “sanctions list.”
Among the cartoons published in the magazine is one portraying Khamenei wearing a turban shaped like a bomb, with its fuse lit. It is reminiscent of one of the “Mohammed” cartoons controversially published by a Danish newspaper in 2005.
Others include imagery symbolizing the regime’s harsh suppression of protests, including guns and execution nooses.
The protests that erupted in September were sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by the morality police enforcing the regime’s hijab rules. Many of the cartoons feature removed hijabs, with one depicting a young woman not wearing a hijab setting fire to the supreme leader’s beard.
In another, the ayatollah tries to scramble up a giant throne to get away from the raised fists of protestors.
Asked during a State Department briefing about the regime’s angry reaction to the sketches, spokesman Ned Price limited his response to underlining the administration’s support for freedom of expression.
“We would only weigh in on the side of freedom of expression, and freedom of expression is a value, it is a universal right that we protect, we uphold, we promote the world over, whether that’s in France, whether that’s in Iran, whether that’s anywhere in between,” Price said.
‘Defying the authority’
Charlie Hebdo said its special edition was also intended to mark the eighth anniversary of a deadly terrorist attack on its offices in Paris in 2015. Jihadists killed 12 people, including some of its leading cartoonists, after the magazine published cartoons satirizing Mohammed, an action deemed blasphemous by many Muslims.
In his column, Sourisseau wrote that publishing the Khamenei cartoons was “a way of remembering that the reasons for which Charlie’s cartoonists and editors were murdered eight years ago, are unfortunately still relevant.”
“Those who refuse to submit to the dictates of religions take the risk of paying for it with their lives.”
Sourisseau said 300 submissions had been received, with those considered most original and effective selected for publication. All of them, he said, had “the merit of defying the authority that the supposed supreme guide claims to be, as well as the cohort of his servants and other henchmen.”
Sourisseau also recalled that Charlie Hebdo confronted the Iranian regime as long ago as 1993, on that occasion over the controversy surrounding Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses.
After the regime launched a cartoon contest inviting sketches of Rushdie drawn in a way that would “depict the real conspiracy which hides behind the blasphemous novel,” Charlie Hebdo in response published about 20 satirical cartoons on the Islamic Republic of Iran, he said.
(Four years earlier Khamenei’s predecessor, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa declaring Rushdie’s book to be insulting to Islam, Mohammed and the Qur’an, and calling on Muslims to kill him and his publishers.
Rushdie, who lived under an effective death sentence for decades, sustained severe injuries in a knife attack in New York last summer.)
The Iranian regime has a track record of organizing or supporting cartoon competitions with provocative themes, including at least three Holocaust-themed cartoon contests (in 2006, 2015, and 2016); a “Down With America” cartoon competition in 2014-15 with subthemes including Islamophobia, Iranophobia and Global Zionism; and a “festival” in 2018 featuring cartoons and other art forms depicting the looming destruction of Israel, as predicted by Khamenei in a 2015 speech.
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