French Cartoons Decried As New Insult

Srinagar: Muslim leaders criticized a French magazine’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) on Wednesday as another western insult to their faith and urged France’s government to take firm action against it.

A provocative French magazine published vulgar caricatures of the Prophet of Islam on Wednesday, inflaming global tensions over a movie insulting to Islam.

Satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published the caricatures, saying the illustrations would “shock those who will want to be shocked.”

“We reject and condemn the French cartoons that dishonour the Prophet and we condemn any action that defames the sacred according to people’s beliefs,” the acting head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Essam Erian, said.

Fresh protests erupted in the Muslim world Wednesday over the anti-Islam film made in the US as the French magazine poured fuel on the fire with the publication of obscene cartoons showing the Prophet.

French weekly’s publication of provocative and insulting cartoons of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) is just the latest caricature in the West of messenger of God that is bound to stir fresh outrage in the Muslim world.

France braced for a backlash from the cartoons, stepping up security at its embassies and banning demonstrations on its own soil as senior officials appealed for calm.

French government ordered embassies and schools to close Friday in about 20 countries.

More than 30 people have been killed in attacks or violent protests linked to the controversial US-made film “Innocence of Muslims”, including 12 people who died in an attack by a female suicide bomber in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

The cartoons were featured in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Its front cover showed an Orthodox Jew pushing a turbaned figure in a wheelchair and several caricatures of the Prophet were included on its inside pages, including some of him naked.

Their publication follows widespread outrage and violent anti-western protests in many Muslim countries in Africa and Asia in the past week over an anti-Muslim film posted on the Internet.

In each case, western officials have said the caricatures, no matter how offensive, are permitted by laws protecting freedom of expression.

Erian said the French judiciary should deal with the issue as firmly as it had handled the case against the magazine which published topless pictures of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of Prince William.

“If the case of Kate (the duchess) is a matter of privacy, then the cartoons are an insult to a whole people. The beliefs of others must be respected,” he said.

Erian also spoke out against any violent reaction from Muslims but said peaceful protests were justified.

“If anyone doubts the Holocaust happened, they are imprisoned, yet if anyone insults the Prophet, the most (France) does is to apologize in two words. It is not fair or logical,” he said.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called the drawings provocative and outrageous but said those who were offended by them should “use peaceful means to express their firm rejection”.
Tunisia’s governing Islamist party, Ennahda, condemned the cartoons as an act of “aggression” against (Prophet) Muhammad. It urged Muslims, in responding to it, to avoid falling into a trap designed by “suspicious parties to derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West”.

A Lebanon cleric Sheikh Nabil Rahim said the cartoons were extremely insulting and could lead to more violence.

“Of course it will anger people further. It will raise tensions that were already dangerously high.”

He accused those involved of trying provoke a clash of civilizations, not dialogue.

An official in Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church said the move was a deliberate provocation.
In 2005, Danish cartoons of the Prophet caused a wave of violent protests across the Muslim world in which at least 50 people were killed.

The French government ordered embassies and schools abroad to close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a precautionary measure. It ordered the immediate closure of the French Embassy and the French school in Tunisia, which saw deadly film-related protests at the U.S. Embassy on Friday.

The French Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning Wednesday urging French citizens in the Muslim world to exercise “the greatest vigilance,” avoiding public gatherings and “sensitive buildings” such as those representing the West or religious sites.

At the same time, the country — which has western Europe’s largest Muslim population — plunged into new debate over the limits to free speech in a modern democracy.

France’s prime minister said freedom of expression is guaranteed, but cautioned that it “should be exercised with responsibility and respect.”

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned that Charlie Hebdo could be throwing “oil on the fire,” but said it’s up to courts to decide whether the magazine went too far.

The magazine’s crude cartoons played off the film and ridiculed the violent reaction to it. Riot police took up positions outside the offices of the magazine, which was firebombed last year after it released an edition that mocked radical Islam.

Charlie Hebdo’s chief editor, who goes by the name of Charb and has been under police protection for a year, defended the cartoons.

“Muhammad isn’t sacred to me,” he said in an interview at the weekly’s offices, on the northeast edge of Paris amid a cluster of housing projects. “I don’t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law; I don’t live under Quranic law.”

Government authorities and Muslim leaders urged calm.

“This is a disgraceful and hateful, useless and stupid provocation,” Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Paris Mosque, said. “We are not Pavlov’s animals to react at each insult.”

A small-circulation weekly, Charlie Hebdo often draws attention for ridiculing sensitivity around the Prophet Muhammad, and an investigation into the firebombing of its offices last year is still open. Compiled from agencies (KO Monitoring Desk)

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