The shelves of a Chapters bookstore in Etobicoke were stocked with the week’s issues of popular magazines — all except the one many were looking for last Friday morning: Charlie Hebdo. It’s the first issue the publication has released since the Paris shootings on Jan. 7 that killed 12 people. It depicts the Prophet Muhammad shedding a tear, holding up a “Je Suis Charlie” sign.
“This magazine has sparked so many controversies, why bring it to Canada?” said Maryam Al-Harazi, a sales associate at the store and a Ryerson student. “It should remain as far from our country as possible.”
It was sold at five newsstands in Toronto, but Indigo and Chapters employees don’t know if they’ll receive any this week.
“Yesterday, I had a customer ask whether we had Charlie Hebdo or not,” Al-Harazi said. “My stance is that I have my personal opinion but I work for someone else and I can’t stress or show my views to the customer. I will sell it — I won’t be happy with it but there is not much I can do.”
Al-Harazi explains that in Islam, Muhammad didn’t want to be idolized. He forbade people from recreating images of him in order to avoid it and that’s why Muslim people aren’t allowed to view depictions of him.
“Seeing (it) makes me cringe (and) I am personally not comfortable with it,” said Adnan Rubaiyat, a former Chapters employee and current Ryerson business student. “Whatever values I have in my life come from Islam and I am very proud of it.”
Al-Harazi and Rubaiyat aren’t the only Ryerson students who share these sentiments.
“You simply cannot insult billions of people in the world in the name of freedom of speech,” said Abdul Malik Mohammad, vice-president of Ryerson’s Muslim Students’ Association.
Mohammad said the cartoons shouldn’t have been printed and he’s upset with vendors’ decisions to sell the magazine here in Canada.
“I will not even go to the bookstores selling those magazines anymore,” he said. “It is our moral duty (as Muslims) to do something when everybody has some kind of sentiment towards our religion. Muslims are in the media 24-7 (and) people’s perceptions are slowly beginning to change. There is now a need for us to defend our religion. As Muslims we have to take a stance and show who real Muslims are.”
Al-Harazi agrees with Mohammad.
“These actions do not define me and I don’t need to justify it. Whatever these people do, they will be accounted for,” she said. “I will continue to do my own thing and practise my religion the way I was taught and I will continue to be the same way. It is not going to change my views.”
After the magazine’s initial sale of 1,500 issues Friday, 5,000 more were delivered to Canadian vendors Monday.
By Eman Ali, Calvin Dao and Ashani Jodha