A French satirical magazine has published controversial caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday as worldwide protests continue against a US film. France announced it would close embassies and schools in around 20 countries, fearing violence.
French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published the caricatures on Wednesday, saying the illustrations would“shock those who will want to be shocked.” Nude illustrations of Mohammed were included among the various caricatures in the release. Meanwhile, Russian news agency Interfax reported that Parisian kiosks sold out all copies of the magazine almost as soon as it hit the shelves. Charlie Hebdo’s website went down soon after the issue was published.
Security was beefed up and riot police deployed at the Magazine’s offices in anticipation of retaliatory protests. Paris also announced that it would be closing its embassies and schools in around 20 countries, fearing subsequent violence, according to AFP.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius announced special security measures “in all the countries where this could pose a problem.”
French politicians and religious leaders have called for calm at the decision to publish the images amidst violent worldwide Muslim protests against the American-made film “Innocence of Muslims” that have been raging since last week. Approximately 40 people have been killed in the wake of the violence across the globe. Any representation of Mohammed is considered insulting and blasphemous under Islamic law.
The French government condemned the publication as needlessly provocative, while at the same time urging for cooler heads to prevail.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault’s office said in a statement, “In the current climate, the prime minister wishes to stress his disapproval of all excess and calls on everyone to behave responsibly.”
“Freedom of expression constitutes one of the fundamental principles of our republic. Such freedom is exercised within the framework of the law and under the supervision of the courts,” the PM said.
Dalil Boubakuer, rector of Paris’s Grand Mosque issued “a call for calm” to members of the Muslim faith, while expressing his sadness over the magazine’s act.
“I learn with much astonishment, sadness and concern that a publication could exacerbate the outcry in the Muslim world,” he said. “I call on all not to pour oil on the fire.”
“But I regret that incitement to religious hatred is not punishable by law is as incitement to racial hatred. We appealed to the District Court of Paris after the cartoons Charlie Hebdo published in 2006, but our complaint was not upheld.”
A reproduction released by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo shows the front page of its September 19 issue featuring a satirical drawing titled “Intouchables 2”. (AFP photo/Fred Dufour)
Prime Minister Ayrault had issued a statement earlier Wednesday saying that all protests against the Innocence of Muslims in the center of Paris would be forbidden.
“We received an official request to hold a demonstration, and it was denied,” Ayrault said in a press release. “There is no reason to allow conflicts to occur in our country that have no relationship to France.”
The PM may have been referring to calls for new protests in the center of Paris on Saturday at Trocadero Square spread by social networking groups. Another Saturday protest was set to be held outside The Great Mosque of Paris.
However, Muslim unrest over the film has not been stifled in France.
Last week, 152 protestors were arrested at a protest not sanctioned by France’s Ministry of Internal Affairs outside the US Embassy in Paris.
France’s Muslim Council said in a statement that it “vigorously condemns this new act of Islamophobia.”
“We launch an urgent appeal to the Muslims of France to not react to this provocation,” they said, according to AFP.
French gendarmes in riot gear encircle demonstrators near the Place de la Concorde in Paris as some 100 people stage a protest over a U.S.-made film mocking the Prophet Mohammad, September 15, 2012. (Reuters/Benoit Tessier)