- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 7, 2017

Charlie Hebdo journalist Zineb El Rhazoui is parting ways with the French satirical magazine because the publication has dulled its attack against Islamic extremism, she said Friday.

Ms. Rhazoui, 35, indicated in a new interview that she believes the magazine lost its edge after two Islamists stormed its Paris office in Jan. 2015 and murdered 12 people, including eight of her colleagues.

Speaking on the eve of the massacre’s second anniversary, the journalist described the rampage as a turning point for the magazine, editorially speaking.

“Charlie Hebdo died on 7 January [2015],” the day of the attack, she told AFP.

Both the 2015 massacre and a previous attack on the magazine’s office four years earlier have been attributed on its decision to visually depict the Islamic prophet Mohammed, at times crudely, in spite of knowingly offending the sensitivities of Muslims who prefer he not be shown, let alone mocked.

According to Ms. Rhazoui, Charlie Hebdo has allayed its editorial stance in the wake of the 2015 rampage and now toes the line the extremists had demanded “before the attack — that Mohammed is no longer depicted,” she told AFP.

In detailing her decision to leave the publication, the Morocco-born journalist questioned where the magazine is still capable of carrying “the torch of irreverence and absolute liberty,” AFP reported.

“Freedom at any cost is what I loved about Charlie Hebdo, where I worked through great adversity,” she said.

Laurent Sourisse, Charlie Hebdo’s editor who often goes by the pen name Riss, said after the 2015 massacre that the paper would no longer depict the Islamic prophet in its pages after apparently achieving its goal of testing its right to free speech.

“We have drawn Mohammad to defend the principle that one can draw whatever they want. It is a bit strange though: we are expected to exercise a freedom of expression that no one dares to,” he told a German magazine several months after the attack. “We’ve done our job. We have defended the right to caricature.”

Speaking to AFP, the outgoing journalist offered a different outlook this week.

“[W]e cannot permit that our colleagues died for nothing. If it were up to me, I would go on,” Ms. Rhazoui said.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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