Writing in Presteigne’s parish magazine, Revd Steve Hollinghurst called it ironic that the west condemns the murder of Jewish people under Hitler’s rule but defends “to the hilt the right of others (cartoonists in this case) to ridicule and offend people of faith and their beliefs”.
The vicar goes on to ask readers, “didn’t the holocaust begin with vile anti-Semitic cartoons? Is there that much difference?”
Well yeah, a lot as it happens. The off-his-rocker rev clearly isn’t familiar with the magazine and its many calls for unity, which include the follow-up to the 2011 firebombing of its offices. On that occasion Charlie Hebdo responded by publishing a front page illustration of one of its cartoonists and a Muslim man kissing, under the headline “Love is stronger than hate”. Not really the sort of actions synonymous with Hitler are they!
In an altogether more sinister move, Dyfed-Powys police have questioned a newsagent, also in Presteigne, in an attempt to monitor sales of Charlie Hebdo.
Owner, Paul Merrett, said a detective and a community support officer spent half an hour asking his wife Deborah about the magazine.
“They wanted to know about Charlie Hebdo. They came in unannounced and we had customers,” he said.
“There were questions asking where we got the Charlie Hebdo copies from, did we know who we sold them to – which we didn’t say. We were a bit bemused because it was out of the blue.
“My wife said, ‘Am I in trouble?’ because she thought she was in trouble for selling them. They said, ‘No, you’re not in trouble’ but just continued with their questioning for half an hour.”
Merrett added: “It was all about Charlie Hebdo. I guess they wanted names and addresses of people we sold them to, which we didn’t tell them anything like that. We sold 30 copies.
“My wife was a bit worried with the questioning but she certainly wouldn’t have given any names to the police. I’m shocked they asked. They wanted to know where we got the copies from, how did we let the customers know that we had them.”
So which of these two stories more accurately portrays life in nazi Germany: The one where satirical journalists poke a bit of fun at all religions but ultimately promote a message of love and tolerance; Or the one where the strong arm of the state harasses a newsagent and demands to know details of customers who have bought copies of a legally published magazine?