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Controversial French magazine Charlie Hebdo portrays women wearing Lionel Messi burqas as part of Taliban joke on front cover

Controversial French magazine Charlie Hebdo portrays women wearing Lionel Messi burqas as part of Taliban joke on front cover
Controversial French publication Charlie Hebdo has used its front cover to show oppressed women wearing burqas with football superstar Lionel Messi's name on the back, adding that the Taliban are "worse than we think."

The provocative illustration comes amid the terrorist group's swift recapture of power in Afghanistan, moving in after the US and their allies withdrew from the country in a coup that is expected to threaten the way of life and basic rights of women such as those shown on the cover.

The headline accompanying the work can be translated from French as: "The Taliban, they are worse than we think".

Observers speculated that the cartoon could be intended to link the Taliban and Qatar, where the owners of Messi's new club, Paris Saint-Germain, are based.

Qatar kept in contact with the Taliban during its previous rule between 1996 and 2001 rule, although it never established diplomatic ties with the government.

The Taliban were said to see Qatar as a neutral setting for talks at the time.

Commenting on the cover, the founder of a grassroots activist organization aiming to preserve America's 'Judeo-Christian values' called the magazine's design "a mirror to the west".

"Taliban leaders have been arriving from Qatar to Afghanistan," she claimed. "Qatar will host the next FIFA World Cup and has recently financed the signing of Messi by PSG.

"Will the West protest or continue to bury their heads in the sand?"

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Some Messi fans accused the magazine of disrespecting the six-time Ballon d'Or winner and dragging him into a political debate.

"It has nothing to do with Messi, we don't care about him," said one.

"What the front page means is that when you buy a PSG jersey – including that of Messi, which is sold a lot – you give money to Qatar, since PSG belongs to them," added another, strongly linking the country with the Taliban.

In 2015, 12 people were killed at Charlie Hebdo's Paris headquarters, including seven reporters and two police officials, in an incident which was widely thought to have been linked to a depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in the magazine.

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"You are making the same mistake again and then you play the role of the victims of the terrorists," warned one critic.

Last December, 14 men were convicted of their part in the attack and another on a Jewish supermarket.

The magazine was involved in a row involving Emmanuel Macron last year after the French leader defended its right to produce more cartoons of the prophet who founded Islam.

Numerous high-profile athletes took exception to Macron's response, including Russian former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is a devoted Muslim.

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