Charlie Hebdo: Satirical magazine is no stranger to controversy

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PARIS (CNN) — Charlie Hebdo, the French magazine where gunmen killed journalists and police in a brazen attack Wednesday, is no stranger to controversy.

The Paris-based weekly satirical magazine became famous for its daring takedowns of politicians, public figures and religious symbols. And while the motive behind Wednesday’s massacre is not yet clear, Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons mocking Islamic extremism have angered some Muslims in recent years and made it a target for attacks.

The magazine’s most recent tweet on Wednesday was a cartoon of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, the terror group which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq in recent months.

In November 2011 the magazine released an issue depicting a bearded and turbaned cartoon figure of the Prophet Mohammed with a bubble saying, “100 lashes if you’re not dying of laughter.” Its offices were burned to the ground by a Molotov cocktail the same day.

Police surveillance had reportedly been fairly tight around the magazine’s offices until recently — and there had been 24-hour surveillance before that, according to CNN’s Jim Bittermann in Paris.

The magazine, which was founded in 1970, has insisted in the past that its goal has never been to provoke anger or violence.

“The aim is to laugh,” Charlie Hebdo journalist Laurent Leger told BFM-TV in 2012. “We want to laugh at the extremists — every extremist. They can be Muslim, Jewish, Catholic. Everyone can be religious, but extremist thoughts and acts we cannot accept.”

“You don’t throw bombs, you discuss, you debate. But you don’t act violently. We have to stand and resist pressure from extremism.”

Any depiction of Islam’s prophet is considered blasphemy by many Muslims. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe, with an estimated 4.7 million followers of the faith.