Muslims challenge 'hate' cartoons

France shuts its embassies fearing attacks after magazine's caricatures of Mohammad

19 September 2012

TWO Muslim groups have lodged legal complaints over the cartoons of Mohammad in satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as France has closed embassies, schools and cultural centres closed in 20 countries today to avoid trouble at tomorrow's weekly Muslim prayers.

The Foreign Office at Quai d'Orsay feared attacks like those that followed the US anit-Islam film Innocence of Muslims - where the US ambassador in Libya was killed. In Tunisia, where nearly 30,000 French live, armoured cars guarded the embassy.

Riot police were also on guard outside the magazine's office in Paris.

There have been calls on social networks for Muslim protests in several cities across France and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has already banned one planned for Saturday in Paris.

Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest authority, said the caricatures were "offensive to Islam and its Prophet" adding "freedom [of speech] should stop [where it affects] other people’s freedoms".

Charlie Hebdo, which sold out by mid-afternoon yesterday, said that its internet site had been hacked during the day when the site was swamped in a "denial of service" attack which had saturated its servers. Police are investigating.

Although the magazine sold out there were reports that purchasers were simply buying them to then rip them up in the street.

Magazine director and artist Charb said that a reprint would be in the kiosks tomorrow and added that it mocked all religions equally.

The magazine has been accused of "public provocation to hate" by the Syrian Association for Freedom in Paris and the Meaux Association of Muslims in Seine-et-Marne. The groups said that they lodged legal complains to "ease tensions" and to "stop street demonstrations".

Its front cover featured a take-off the film Intouchables with a Jew pushing an Imam in a wheelchair and the legend "Don't make fun". At the back were four "optional" front pages which had cartoons of Mohammad, including a take-off of Closer.
Photo: Frédéric Boutard -

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