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The chief editor of Charlie Hebdo is defending the magazine's controversial depictions of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad, saying it skewers religious figures only when faith gets "entangled" in the political world.
"We do not attack religion, but we do when it gets involved in politics," Gerard Biard said in an interview with Chuck Todd broadcast on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
"If God becomes entangled in politics, then democracy is in danger," Biard said through a translator in his first interview with an American television network since his magazine was attacked by Islamist terrorists. The attack on Jan. 7 killed 12 people, including staff members.
He said that even though Charlie Hebdo is considered an "atheist" magazine, it employs staff members who practice and observe different faiths. They don't fear being mocked, Biard said, "because they are not publicly declaring it and instead they keep it within their hearts, in their conscience."
“To be a believer is a personal choice that concerns no one else,” Biard said. “We respect that, in the same way that we respect a person’s private life as long as the individual does not inject his or her private life into the public sphere.”
Biard told NBC News he had been traveling when two gunmen opened fire on staff and police at the magazine’s offices in Paris in a horrific attack that stunned the world.
Those who experienced the attack up close and survived “are trying individually to understand why they escaped unharmed,” Biard said. “It’s very difficult to process because one obviously feels an enormous relief mixed with a sense of guilt.”
Editor's Note: During the interview with Gérard Biard, the chief editor of Charlie Hebdo, there was a mistranslation of the term “liberté de conscience.” In many of the places where “freedom of religion” is heard in English, the correct translation should be “freedom of thought” or “freedom of conscience.”