By Soroor Ahmed (NVONews.Com)
After the film Innocence of Muslims came obscene cartoons in a French satirical magazine, which, to say the least, ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad.
Immediately after the magazine hit the stands on Wednesday the French government sounded alert and security has been beefed up at country’s interests abroad.
The government, which had urged the weekly not to print the cartoons, closed its embassies, consulates, cultural centres and schools in 20-odd countries for the next few days as a precaution. Most of them are in North Africa and South East Asia––where France once ruled.
Though French foreign minister and White House spokesman expressed concern at the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo, yet they defended the freedom of the Press.
As the Prophet Mohammad (God forbids) has been portrayed naked in cartoons, there is fear of more angry protest in the Muslim world, especially after the Friday congregation.
As uploading of Innocence of Muslims sparked off violence, which subsequently led to the killing of American ambassador in Libya and increased attack on American soldiers in Afghanistan there is fear of French soldiers, diplomats and civilians being targeted.
Since the number of French soldiers in Afghanistan is already very small and President Hollande, after taking over last May, had announced that his country would soon withdraw combat forces before the NATO deadline of Dec 31, 2014, there is more concern about safety of French elsewhere in the world.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called the drawings outrageous but said those who were offended by them should “use peaceful means to express their firm rejection”.
In Egypt, Essam Erian, acting head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told news agency Reuters: “We reject and condemn the French cartoons that dishonour the Prophet and we condemn any action that defames the sacred according to people’s beliefs.”
A joint statement by a senior Catholic bishop Michel Dubost and president of the French Muslim Council (CFCM), Mohammed Moussaoui, while defending the right to freedom of expression under the cherished French principles of “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” said: “But freedom endangers itself if it forgets fraternity and respect for everyone’s equal right to dignity.”
Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris Grand Mosque, told the Associated Press: “This is a disgraceful and hateful, useless and stupid provocation.” “We are not like animals of Pavlov to react at each insult,” he added.
Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, condemned what it called an act of “aggression” against Prophet Mohammad but urged Muslims not to fall into a trap intended to “derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West”.
A Muslim group in Paris filed a legal complaint against the weekly but there were no reports of reaction on the streets of France, which has about five to six million Muslims.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius criticized the publication of the cartoons as a provocation.
“We saw what happened last week in Libya and in other countries such as Afghanistan,” Fabius told a regular news conference. “We have to call on all to behave responsibly.”
However, Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier rejected the criticism. “We have the impression that it’s officially allowed for Charlie Hebdo to attack the Catholic far-right but we cannot poke fun at fundamental Islamists,” he said.
“It shows the climate. Everyone is driven by fear, and that is exactly what this small handful of extremists who do not represent anyone want: to make everyone afraid, to shut us all in a cave,” he was quoted by Reuters.
Charlie Hebdo Paris office were gutted last November in a petrol bomb attack after it named Prophet Mohammad as its “editor-in-chief” for an issue.
In Paris riot police were deployed to protect the magazine’s offices. Charbonnier has already been under police guard ever since last November attack.
In 2005, Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammad sparked off a wave of protests across the Muslim world in which at least 50 people died.
Charlie Hebdo has caricatured other religious figures in the past, including a “Pope special” in 2008 which resulted in an unsuccessful court action accusing the magazine of inciting hate.
One of the milder cartoons in Wednesday’s edition, the cover image, shows an Orthodox Jew pushing a turbaned figure in a wheelchair, with the caption “You mustn’t mock”.
But then unlike Prophet Mohammad, it had not carried series of obscene cartoons against Prophets of other religions, for example, Jesus Christ, Moses, David, Solomon, Joseph etc.
The editor-in-chief of the magazine, Gerard Biard, told the BBC’s World Have Your Say programme that they had published the cartoons because the protests about the film were newsworthy.
“These publications will not cost lives,” he said. “Who killed people? We are not killing people, I’m sorry. We are not the violent ones. We are just journalists.”