By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
In Iran, a weekly publication linked with Hizbullah has welcomed the recent deadly violence in France as a blessing amid silence by authorities and hard-liners who have been quick to call for tough action against a daily that featured a picture of actor George Clooney on its front page with the headline "I Am Also Charlie."
On its front page, Ya Lesarat al-Hossein, the official publication of Iran's Ansar-e Hizbullah plain clothes militia, has congratulated Muslims on the January 8 attack while claiming that that the assassination of staff and police officers on the premises of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris was the enforcement of the "legitimate punishment" of those who insult Prophet Muhammad.
"Thousands of congratulations to the nation of Muhammad," the hard-line publication wrote on its front page, which features a picture of a bouquet of pink flowers.
The main headline, in red, is a poem that expresses joy over the Paris killings and says that the "enemy that insulted Prophet Muhammad" was sent to the grave.
One of the subheadlines writes that the implementation of the 'blessed' punishment against those insulting the Prophet of Islam has nothing to do with terrorism and the militant group Islamic State.
Another subheadline condemns the "passive reaction" by Iran's President Hassan Rohani regarding the alleged insult against Muhammad and "misleading coverage" by state television.
The stance by the hard-line group, which has been involved in a state crackdown on dissidents and opposition members, goes against the official line of the Islamic republic regarding the attack.
Tehran has condemned the assault on the Paris publication that left 12 dead, including 5 cartoonists, while also criticizing what it has termed the misuse of freedom of expression "to humiliate monotheistic religions."
Speaking on January 9, Rohani denounced violence in the name of Islam and said that those who carry out violent attacks in the name of religion provoke "Islamophobia."
So far, the joyful and welcoming stance of Ya Lesarat al-Hossein regarding the violence in Paris, which also claimed the lives of five other people besides those who died at Charlie Hebdo's offices, has not been publicly denounced by Iranian officials.
But there's a been string of condemnation and calls for action against Mardom-e Emrouz over its January 13 cover page featuring Clooney, who at the Golden Globe Awards voiced solidarity with the victims of the Paris attacks while wearing a "Je Suis Charlie" badge on his tuxedo.
The daily also published Clooney's comments.
"Millions marched not only in Paris but all around the world, and there were Christians and Jews and Muslims, leaders of countries all over the world, they didn't march in protest, they marched in support of the idea that we will not walk in fear. Je suis Charlie," Clooney said.
Hard-liners say they are angered that the daily covered Clooney's remarks on its front page without offering context regarding the "insulting" and "disrespectful" cartoons by Charlie Hebdo. They claim that the coverage suggest that Mardom-e Emrouz is supportive of the French weekly.
The January 13 cover of the Iranian daily Mardom-e Emrouz featuring George Clooney.
Iranian media report that some 70 lawmakers have already signed a complaint against the daily and called for harsh measures against it.
In an interview with the Fars news agency, lawmaker Zohreh Tabibzadeh accused Mardom-e Emrouz of having followed the same line as Charlie Hebdo. The weekly has been accused of insulting Muhammad in several of its cartoons, including on its latest cover, the first since the attack that hit the newsstands on January 14. The cover features Muhammad who is shedding tears while holding a sign that says "Je Suis Charlie" under the headline in French, which says "All Is Forgiven."
The cartoon has been condemned by Tehran as "insulting" and "provocative."
Tabibzadeh warned that the lack of "decisive action" against the moderate Iranian daily would result in the impeachment of Iran's Culture Minister.
Jahannews meanwhile, said that Mardom-e Emrouz's front page could suggest that the daily has joined the ranks of those insulting Muhammad. The news website said the country's Press Supervisory Board should react to such moves.
In an interview with Fars, Mardom-e Emrouz editor in chief Mohammad Ghochani defended its January 13 front page by saying that it was published before Charlie Hebdo repeated its "wrongful" action and printed another "insulting" cartoon.
Ghouchani was quoted by the hard-line news agency as saying that his paper will express its stance about the latest cartoon by Charlie Hebdo in its new issue.
Most Iranian media have condemned the deadly attack in Paris while also criticizing Charlie Hebdo for mocking Prophet Muhammad.
Some Iranians, including a number of journalists and intellectuals based in the country, have expressed online solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.
On January 8, Iranian authorities prevented a group of journalists from holding a vigil for the victims of the attack on the French weekly.
Copyright (c) 2015 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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