The day before the publication the weekly's headquarters were the target of an incendiary bomb. The website was hacked. This wasn't the publication's first 'offence'. In 2006 it published the famous Danish Mohammed cartoon. Once again, this time round, it was not swayed by negative reactions. In 2012 Charlie Hebdo went a step further and published naked caricatures of the prophet.
Poking fun at everything
Poking fun at everything and everybody is not a foregone conclusion in a country where tensions in society have been on the rise for decades. This is France where the far right Front National of Marine Le Pen attracts more and more voters. It is also a France that in the latest novel by the controversial author Michel Houellebecq hurtles towards its doom under a Moslem president.
This very week Charlie Hebdo poked fun with Houellebecq on its front-page. It's also a France that disillusioned youngsters run away from in order to go and fight in Syria. There are already over a thousand of them. We can but guess at the number of Frenchmen and women who stay at home but still sympathise with IS.
A question of time
With so many Frenchmen in its ranks, it was only a question of time before the French too ended up in the group's sights. Last December the jihadist-salafist terror outfit distributed this video message.
When IS steps up to the plate, Al-Qaeda cannot remain far behind. Every atrocity that the most media-savvy terrorist group of our day commits, provokes rival extremists to carry out equally spectacular attacks. It is unclear who is behind Wednesday's outrage, but the two terrorist groups are the top suspects.
"We too are bloody Frenchmen"
French Moslems see this unfold with sadness. They may suffer the most as a result of the actions of IS, Al-Qaeda and their ilk. When a Frenchman was murdered by an Algerian terrorist outfit that sympathises with IS last September, hundreds of Moslems took to the streets to show their revulsion. A raft of prominent Moslems wrote an open letter to the daily Le Figaro: "We too are bloody Frenchmen".
Today too, now it has emerged that the perpetrators shouted 'God is great' during the attack, the Moslem community reacts with horror. France's Moslem Council speaks of a 'barbaric act against humanity'.
Humour puts matters in context
It's no coincidence that the staff of a satirical weekly like Charlie Hebdo were the target. Humour is extremists' greatest nightmare. This Palestinian channel has got the message... like the Lebanese behind this sketch.
Extremists and dictators don't have a sense of humour. Humour puts matters into perspective and also undermines. It exposes both extremists and their simple worldview.
Those that believe they possess absolute truth do not take kindly to nuance. They think in extremes. Extremism leads to intolerance. Moslems of a different vein or who are less radical are executed. Christians and Yezidis are set to flight. Journalists who chose to ignore propaganda and report the facts are beheaded. The only message that the extremists allow is the exaltation of their own right. The caliphate is an ideal state that should not be the subject of ridicule.
Only one answer befits
The result was Wednesday’s outrage. An attack on the heart of journalism and freedom of expression. It was an outrage intended to polarise and fuel hatred.
Only one answer befits such an atrocity: condemnation, punishment and especially ridicule. Maybe all the world's cartoonists and media should put satire and humour on their front-pages during the next few days, also in their headlines. Not the satire that needlessly hits an entire community - that would not be constructive - but rather satire that pokes fun at extremism and violence.
From today let's publish a thousand cartoons about IS and Al-Qaeda. That's what will hurt the most.
Rudi Vranckx is a reporter with the News Service of the Flemish public broadcaster VRT. Read more about Rudi Vranckx at http://check-point.be/.