The new issue of Charlie Hebdo is hitting newstands, on schedule, following last week’s shocking massacre and Sunday’s massive rally.

Although the satirical newspaper usually prints 60,000 copies, they are preparing a run of over 3 million for this issue. The cover, as promised, features the prophet Mohammed.

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Tout Est Pardonne” means “All is forgiven.” I can see two possible “translations” of this cover’s meaning:

1) Charlie Hebdo is forgiving Mohammed, who is standing in solidarity with them and against the terrorists who incorrectly claimed to be acting in his honor and in accordance with his teachings. Read this way, the cover stands similarly to the statements of Malek Merabet, whose brother, Ahmed, was a Paris police officer killed in the attack.

“My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims. Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste…One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Mad people have neither colour or religion.”

2) Charlie Hebdo is sarcastically forgiving (but not really forgiving) Mohammed, whose apology is nothing but an insincere farce. As many pointed out, the Paris Unity March featured many world leaders who themselves are known for suppressing freedom of expression, sometimes in the name of religion.

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Read this way, the cover is skewering “Islam” for pretending to stand in solidarity with free expression, and responds to an insincere apology with an insincere expression of forgiveness. Of course they do not forgive Mohammed for inspiring the killing of their coworkers and friends, and they are offended that he pretends to stand with them.

There is nothing obviously inflammatory or offensive in this cover, yet it should actually offend everyone.

If the cover is to be read as sincere, those who assume that the West and the Islamic world are in a Samuel Huntington-style Clash of Civilizations may be offended by the insinuation that Islam, at its core, is a peaceful religion and sorry for what has occurred. They might see the cover as willful denial of the current state of the world. At the same time, many radicalized Muslims will be further enraged to see their prophet portrayed as a supporter of Charlie Abdo.

On the other hand, if both the solidarity and forgiveness in the cover are insincere, then the cover may offend those who work to amplify and promote the voices of peaceful Muslims around the world. Most of France’s 5-6,000,000 Muslims may see this cover as claiming that they are not honest about the true teachings of Islam, their own motives, and the value of their statements of loyalty to their country.

Which is it? I honestly do not know, and that ambiguity is perhaps the cover’s genius.

UPDATE
From The Guardian:

Asked to explain the magazine’s front cover, which features a cartoon of a crying Muhammad wearing a “Je suis Charlie” badge under the heading “All is forgiven”, [CH columnist Zineb] Rhazoui said: “We feel that we have to forgive what happened. I think those who have been killed, if they would have been able to have a coffee today with the terrorists and just talk to ask them why have they done this … We feel at the Charlie Hebdo team that we need to forgive.”
She added: “The two terrorists who killed our colleagues, we cannot feel any hate … The mobilisation that happened in France after this horrible crime must open the door to forgiveness. Everyone must think about this forgiveness.”
Her comments come after fresh condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo magazine by Muslim leaders over the magazine’s new cover.