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US criticizes French magazine over cartoons

The White House on Wednesday questioned the judgment of a French weekly that published cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, but said the decision was no justification for violence.

"We have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this," White House spokesman Jay Carney said, while adding "it is not in any way justification for violence."

"We don't question the right of something like this to be published, we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it," Carney said.

The decision by the French weekly Charlie Hebdo to print obscene cartoons depicting the prophet, came as fresh protests erupted in the Muslim world over an anti-Islam film made by extremist Coptic Christians in the United States.

Security was reinforced at French missions and other institutions in countries feared most at risk of a hostile reaction to the French cartoons.

French Embassies, consulates, cultural centers and international French schools in around 20 countries will be closed on Friday in case they are targeted in demonstrations following weekly Muslim prayers.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that as yet no decisions had been made regarding US embassies on Friday, as the situation was being evaluated "on a day-today basis."

"Obviously we're in very close touch with our French allies as they evaluate their security posture," she said.

US embassies in Tunis, Tripoli, and Sanaa were closed on Wednesday, she confirmed, and while consulates in the Pakistani cities of Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi were closed the embassy in Islamabad was open.

"We're talking to the French. I'm obviously not going to get into our security assessment other than to say this is one of the things we're factoring into our look at security going forward."

The cartoons drama erupted a week after violent reactions to the film "Innocence of Muslims" which targeted US missions throughout the Muslim world, including an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi which killed the US ambassador to Libya, and three other diplomatic staff.

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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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