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French magazine risks Muslim fury with cartoons

September 19, 2012 by

Charlie Hebdo’s publisher, known only as Charb, unveils the issue/AFP

PARIS, Sept 19 – A French magazine published a series of provocative cartoons Wednesday showing a nude Prophet Mohammed, likely to further fan the flames after a wave of Muslim protests over an anti-Islam film.

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.

And fears that the anger could spread to Europe mounted Wednesday after French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons caricaturing the Muslim prophet, including one showing his naked buttocks.

France stepped up security at its embassies in countries where there could be a hostile reaction to the cartoons, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, adding that he was “concerned” by the potential for a backlash.

The magazine’s editor, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, said the images would “shock those who will want to be shocked”.

“The freedom of the press, is that a provocation?” he said. “I’m not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn’t go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe.”

Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy. Last year it published an edition “guest-edited” by the Prophet Mohammed that it called Sharia Hebdo and its offices in Paris were subsequently firebombed.

“The freedom of the press, is that a provocation?” he said. “I’m not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn’t go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe.”

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said anyone offended by the cartoons could take the matter to the courts after expressing his “disapproval of all excesses”, but he emphasised France’s tradition of free speech.

“Innocence of Muslims,” a film produced by extremist Christians in the United States that depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a thuggish womaniser, has triggered furious protests in at least 20 countries over a trailer on YouTube.

US President Barack Obama said Tuesday he expected governments in the Muslim world to protect American diplomats, despite their revulsion at a film made on US soil deemed offensive to their faith.

“The message we have to send to the Muslim world is that we expect you to work with us, to keep our people safe,” Obama said on the “Late Show with David Letterman” on CBS TV.

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