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'Charlie Hebdo' Hits The Stands — And Promptly Flies Off Them

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We're reporting this morning on the return of Charlie Hebdo. That's the French satirical magazine whose offices were attacked in Paris last week. Twelve people were killed. This morning, a group in Yemen, al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, claimed responsibility.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Despite last week's horrors and ongoing threats, Charlie has put out a new issue. Three million copies hit newsstands across France today and promptly sold out.

GREENE: And we have Lauren Frayer on the line with us. She's been reporting in Paris. And, Lauren, as I understand it you're at a newsstand, right?

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: I'm a newsstand where it's pouring rain. The issue of Charlie Hebdo is completely sold out. People keep running up excited and then walking away disappointed. Before dawn, I found myself in a crowd of Parisians literally running around the city from newsstand to newsstand trying to find Charlie as trucks delivered their bundles of newspapers. Here's one man who was running alongside me.

DAMIAN CAYO: It's a hard time. It's all empty everywhere. I can't find any. I'm looking for a half an hour, and not any - not any single one. All over Paris, I'm looking.

FRAYER: That's Damian Cayo in central Paris. Later I joined a crowd of people lining up at a bookstore that also sells newspapers. We waited for two hours in the cold before sunrise, before the store opened. About 100 people were behind me in line. We could see a small stack of Charlie Hebdos inside through the store windows. But by the time the store opened at 9 a.m. they told us all the issues were claimed already, again preorders. So obviously people were very disappointed.

GREENE: OK, well, Lauren, let's get an idea for what people were trying to get their hands on. I mean, I know we've seen images of the cover. It's this cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a tear in his eye, holding that poster that in French says I am Charlie. But what's on the inside of this issue?

FRAYER: So I actually managed to get a PDF, an electronic copy, of the issue. So I have read through it. Now, there's a lot here people might find pretty funny. There's also a lot people are likely to find pretty offensive. There's a quite graphic cartoon of a Muslim woman lifting up her abaya, that Muslim full-body covering, to show a naked body with garter belts.

There's also a cartoon of two gunmen; this is the cartoon that pretty much everybody is talking about today. It shows two men, possibly meant to be the Kouchi brothers, the assailants in last week's attack. It shows their arrival in heaven with their automatic weapons, and they're asking, where are they, the 70 virgins? And next to them there's a gaggle of people on a fluffy cloud saying, they're with the Charlie team.

The issue also has cartoons making fun of the pope, of French politicians. So it's not just Islam. One cartoon shows an empty church altar next to crowds of people holding Je suis Charlie posters with a caption saying that there were many more people in the streets for Charlie last Sunday than at any church service.

GREENE: And I guess I wonder, I mean, there's this debate - a lot of people say this is a matter of free speech, that the magazine has a right to do this. There's some who say that because Islam forbids depictions of the prophet that this should be considered hate speech, some of these images. And as that debate goes forward, is there a concern for security and maybe more violence?

FRAYER: So there's still a heavy police presence and military presence across France. Here in Paris, the magazine is very much being celebrated by people of all walks of life. The people who were alongside me in line to buy the issue this morning, they were elderly people, college students, black, white, Arab.

But there are some concerns. Two French Muslim groups issued a statement last night on the eve of this issue's release urging calm among Muslims in France because of that prophet cartoon on the magazine's cover. It's interesting to note 3 million copies have been printed in French, but for the first time the magazine's also being translated into five other languages, including Arabic.

GREENE: All right. We've been speaking to Lauren Frayer, who is reporting in Paris. She spoke to us from a newsstand this morning. Lauren, thanks a lot.

FRAYER: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.