Muslim prayer
Muslim prayer Israel news photo: Flash 90

The offices of a French newspaper were destroyed by a firebomb early Wednesday over its satirical invitation to the Islamic Prophet Muhammed.

The newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, is a satirical weekly. A firebomb, or “Molotov cocktail” was lobbed into the offices of the paper at about 1:00 a.m., igniting a blaze.

The attack came a day after the paper had announced it was naming Islam's founder, Prophet Muhammed, as its “editor-in-chief” for this week's issue. The statement said: “In order fittingly to celebrate the Islamist Ennahda's win in Tunisia and the NTC (National Transitional Council) president's promise that sharia would be the main source of law in Libya, Charlie Hebdo asked Mohammed to be guest editor.”

The back page of the paper was to feature a picture of Muhammed wearing a red nose, with the caption, “Yes, Islam is compatible with humor.”  The front page, renamed “Sharia Hebdo,” was to likewise feature a picture of the Muslim prophet, captioned, “100 lashes if you don't die of laughter!”

The real editor-in-chief, meanwhile, who goes by the name of “Charb,” told France Info radio, “We no longer have a newspaper. All our equipment has been destroyed or has melted.”

Although the fire was extinguished quickly by Paris firefighters, much of the material in the office was destroyed, local police told reporters.

The paper intends to file a John Doe complaint since the perpetrators have not been identified, according to The Telegraph.

“We cannot, today, put together a paper. But we will do everything possible to do one next week,” Charb promised. “Whatever happens, we'll do it. There is no question of giving in.” Muslim extremists have, in the past, rioted and in some cases threatened the lives of journalists who publish material considered offensive to their beliefs. 

Islam is the second most widely practiced religion in France, following Roman Catholicism, with the number of worshipers totally between five to ten percent of the population.