After film, Prophet cartoons in French weekly inflame tension
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Security stepped up across embassies; leaders slam publication, urge calm
A French satirical magazine on Wednesday published a series of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed, setting off a new wave of outrage among Muslims and condemnation from French leaders amid widening unrest over an amateur video that has provoked violence throughout the Islamic world.
The illustrations, some of which depicted Mohammed naked and in pornographic poses, hit newsstands across the country on Wednesday and were met with a swift rebuke from the government of François Hollande, which had earlier urged the magazine, Charlie Hebdo, not to publish the cartoons, particularly in the current tense environment.
"In France, there is a principle of freedom of expression, which should not be undermined," Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, said in a French radio interview. "In the present context, given this absurd video that has been aired...Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?"
In the interview, Fabius announced that, as a precaution, France planned to close its embassies in 20 countries on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, which has become an occasion for many to express their anger although "no threats have been made against any institutions". A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the closings would affect French consulates, cultural centres and schools as well.
Charlie Hebdo's website was not functioning on Wednesday, the result of a computer attack, according to the editorial director, Stéphane Charbonnier.
Charbonnier however stayed defiant and unapologetic. "Mohammed isn't sacred to me,'' he said in an interview at his office on the northeast edge of Paris. "I don't blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law; I don't live under Quranic law."
He had no regrets and felt no responsibility for any violence. "I'm not the one going into the streets with stones and Kalashnikovs," he said. "We've had 1,000 issues and only three problems - all after front pages about radical Islam."
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