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Naked prophet cartoons in French magazine

A French satirical magazine published nude cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad Wednesday, a move that could further inflame tensions after violent protests in the Muslim world over an anti-Islam film.

Naked prophet cartoons in French magazine
David Monniaux

The cover of Charlie Hebdo shows a Muslim in a wheelchair being pushed by an Orthodox Jew under the title "Intouchables 2", referring to an award-winning French film about a poor black man who helps an aristocratic quadriplegic.

Another cartoon on the back page of the weekly magazine show a naked turbaned Mohammed exposing his posterior to a film director, a scene inspired by a 1963 film starring French film star Brigitte Bardot.

Charlie Hebdo's website crashed on Wednesday after being bombarded with comments that ranged from hate mail to approbation.

The magazine is no stranger to controversy over issues relating to Islam.

Last year it published an edition "guest-edited" by the Prophet Mohammed that it called Sharia Hebdo. The magazine's offices in Paris were subsequently
fire-bombed.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said anyone offended by cartoons could take the matter to the courts after expressing his "disapproval of all excesses".

But he emphasised France's tradition of free speech. "We are in a country where freedom of expression is guaranteed, including the freedom to caricature," he said on RTL radio.

"If people really feel offended in their beliefs and think there has been an infringement of the law — and we are in a state where laws must be totally respected — they can go to court," Ayrault said.

He also said a request to hold a demonstration in Paris against the controversial US-made anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" which has sparked furious protests across the Muslim world would be refused.

Charlie Hebdo's latest move was greeted with immediate calls from political and religious leaders for the media to act responsibly and avoid inflaming the current situation.

The magazine's editor, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, denied he was being deliberately provocative at a delicate time.

"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."

Dalil Boubakeur, the senior cleric at Paris's biggest mosque, appealed for France's four million Muslims to remain calm.

"It is with astonishment, sadness and concern that I have learned that this publication is risking increasing the current outrage across the Muslim world," he said.

"I would appeal to them not to pour oil on the fire."

France's Muslim Council, the community's main representative body, also appealed for calm in the face of "this new act of Islamophobia".

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ISLAM

Erdogan calls French separatism bill ‘guillotine’ of democracy

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday denounced a planned French law designed to counter "Islamist separatism" as a "guillotine" of democracy.

Erdogan calls French separatism bill 'guillotine' of democracy
Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as "anti-Muslim". Photo: Adem ALTAN/AFP

The draft legislation has been criticised both inside France and abroad for stigmatising Muslims and giving the state new powers to limit speech and religious groups.

“The adoption of this law, which is openly in contradiction of human rights, freedom of religion and European values, will be a guillotine blow inflicted on French democracy,” said Erdogan in a speech in Ankara.

The current version of the planned law would only serve the cause of extremism, putting NGOs under pressure and “forcing young people to choose between their beliefs and their education”, he added.

READ ALSO: What’s in France’s new law to crack down on Islamist extremism?

“We call on the French authorities, and first of all President (Emmanuel) Macron, to act sensibly,” he continued. “We expect a rapid withdrawal of this bill.”

Erdogan also said he was ready to work with France on security issues and integration, but relations between the two leaders have been strained for some time.

France’s government is in the process of passing new legislation to crack down on what it has termed “Islamist separatism”, which would give the state more power to vet and disband religious groups judged to be threats to the nation.

Erdogan has already denounced the proposed measures as “anti-Muslim”.

READ ALSO: Has Macron succeeded in creating an ‘Islam for France’?

Last October, Erdogan questioned Macron’s “mental health”, accusing him of waging a “campaign of hatred” against Islam, after the French president defended the right of cartoonists to caricature the prophet Mohammed.

The two countries are also at odds on a number of other issues, including Libya, Syria and the eastern Mediterranean.

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