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New French cartoons inflame prophet film tensions

By Lori Hinnant and Greg Keller

Associated Press


PARIS » A French magazine published vulgar caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad today, inflaming global tensions over a movie insulting to Islam and prompting France to step up security at its embassies.

The move by the provocative weekly Charlie Hebdo followed days of violent protests from Asia to Africa against the U.S.-produced film "Innocence of Muslims" and turned France into a potential target of Muslim rage. Up to now, American government sites have drawn the most ire.

Violence linked to the amateurish movie, which portrays the prophet as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester, has killed at least 30 people in seven countries, including the American ambassador to Libya.

Several hundred lawyers protesting the movie forced their way into an area in Pakistan's capital that houses the U.S. Embassy and other foreign missions.

The United States temporarily closed its consulate in an Indonesian city because of similar demonstrations and hundreds protested the film in Sri Lanka's capital, burning effigies of President Barack Obama.

The French government ordered embassies and schools abroad to close on Friday, the Muslim holy day, as a precautionary measure. It ordered the immediate closure of the French Embassy and the French school in Tunisia, which saw deadly film-related protests at the U.S. Embassy on Friday.

The French Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning today urging French citizens in the Muslim world to exercise "the greatest vigilance," avoiding public gatherings and "sensitive buildings" such as those representing the West or religious sites.

At the same time, the country — which has western Europe's largest Muslim population — plunged into a new debate over the limits of free speech in a modern democracy.

France's prime minister said freedom of expression is guaranteed, but cautioned that it "should be exercised with responsibility and respect."

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned that Charlie Hebdo could be throwing "oil on the fire," but said it's up to the courts to decide whether the magazine went too far.

The magazine's crude cartoons played off the film and ridiculed the violent reaction to it. Riot police took up positions outside the offices of the magazine, which was firebombed last year after it released an edition that mocked radical Islam.

Charlie Hebdo's chief editor, who goes by the name of Charb and has been under police protection for a year, defended the cartoons.

"Muhammad isn't sacred to me," he said in an interview at the weekly's offices 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."

Charb said 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."

Government authorities and Muslim leaders urged calm.

"This is a disgraceful and hateful, useless and stupid provocation," Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Paris Mosque, told The Associated Press. "We are not Pavlov's animals to react at each insult."

A small-circulation weekly, Charlie Hebdo often draws attention for ridiculing sensitivity around the Prophet Muhammad, and an investigation into the firebombing of its offices last year is still open. The magazine posted a statement online saying its website had been hacked.

Abdallah Zekri, president of the Paris-based Anti-Islamophobia Observatory, said his group is considering filing a lawsuit against the magazine.

"People want to create trouble in France," he said. "Charlie Hebdo wants to make money on the backs of Muslims."

Charlie Hebdo was acquitted in 2008 by a Paris appeals court of "publicly abusing a group of people because of their religion" following a complaint by Muslim associations.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said organizers of a demonstration planned for Saturday against the "Innocence of Muslims" won't receive police authorization. Paris prosecutors have opened an investigation into an unauthorized protest last Saturday around the U.S. Embassy that drew about 150 people and led to scores of arrests.

The debate about the limits of free speech spread to neighboring Germany, where Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle spoke on the topic.

"I call on all those, especially those who rightly invoke the right of freedom of speech, to also act responsibly. The one who now puts more oil on the fire on purpose, with obvious effect, is not the greatest thinker," he said today in Berlin.

The German Embassy in Sudan, which was attacked last week, remains closed and security at the country's embassies in other countries has been beefed up, he said.

The cartoonist of the French caricatures published today, who goes by the name Luz, was defiant.

"We treat the news like journalists. Some use cameras, some use computers. For us, it's a paper and pencil," he said. "A pencil is not a weapon. It's just a means of expression."

Outside the Charlie Hebdo offices, a passer-by wearing a traditional Muslim tunic said he was neither surprised nor shocked by the cartoons. He criticized France's decision to close embassies and schools for fear of protests by extremists.

"It gives legitimacy to movements that don't have any," said Hatim Essoufaly, who was walking his toddler in a stroller.

In Pakistan, the lawyers who protested in Islamabad shouted anti-U.S. slogans and burned an American flag after they pushed through a gate, gaining access to the diplomatic enclave before police stopped them. They called for the U.S. ambassador to be expelled, and then peacefully dispersed.

Much of the anger over the film, which denigrates Islam's Prophet Muhammad, has been directed at the U.S. government even though the film was privately produced in the United States and American officials have criticized it.

The U.S. Embassy in Indonesia sent a text message to U.S. citizens saying that the consulate in Medan, the country's third-largest city, has been closed temporarily because of demonstrations over the film.

About 300 members of Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a pan-Islamic movement, rallied peacefully on today in front of the consulate in Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province. Later, about 50 Muslim students also protested there. Both groups called on Washington to punish the makers of the film.

On Tuesday, Islamic militants sought to capitalize on anger over the film, saying a suicide bombing that killed 12 people in Afghanistan was revenge for the video and calling for attacks on U.S. diplomats and facilities in North Africa.

Nicolas Garriga and Jeff Schaeffer in Paris, Juergen Baetz in Berlin and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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BigIdeas4U wrote:
More violence and hate shown by leaders and followers of Islam. Why? Not because of some video or cartoon. We continue to accept greater integration and acceptance of this "faith" into civilized society. Recognize the risk of this accommodating trend.
on September 19,2012 | 06:00AM
edster48 wrote:
The Arab nations have been fighting amongst themselves for thousands of years. The only time there was any kind of relative "peace" was when they were colonies of other countries, I stress the word relative. We continue to finance these cretins with oil money, this is stupid. The United States has the means to be energy independant and we should do all we can to make this happen and cut off their funding. If they then choose to attack us, drop a twenty megaton thermonuclear warhead on the country responsible. Things will quiet down real fast after that. It's what they understand.
on September 19,2012 | 07:13AM
johncdechon wrote:
America has become a Paper Tiger and Global (sissified) joke -- ANYone can attack America (like those street-trash-thugs in Libya) but re: our "morals" as well as our "Rules of Engagment" hads-tied military, which isn't allowed to FIGHT. Imagine Ancient or Medieval armies having such trouble with Izz lam ic fa na tics...how would THOSE armies handle them? Utter destruction. Yes, contrary to popular (but once again ignorant) public belief, vio len ce really DOES solve probems. It always has.
on September 19,2012 | 07:34AM
johncdechon wrote:
Good...we need more of this, as it brings out nut-case Izz lam ics out of the woodwork, to show the world (as if it still hasn;t got it yet) how violent those people REALLY are. Besides, when you give in to bullies -- a bully-religion telling you they will hurt or kk i ll you if you even just SAY anything negative about their re lig io n -- they only get worse!
on September 19,2012 | 07:29AM
cojef wrote:
World domination of the Islamic faith is the only way peace can be achieved, since there can be no toleration of other faiths. From time immeorial, war was about religion. Yes, many will agrue economics as the root causes of war, or more bluntly the haves and the haves not. Yet, it still boils down to beliefs in how we conduct our lives, ethic, morals, rights of individuals, personal choices, etc. All these elements have to do with our mental processes on how we percieve life. The Islamic faith, as witnessed by the events of the past and present indicate to the civilized world a culture of hate for non-believers, even death. A very savage and brutual faith if you could call it that. Can't understand how a faith can generate such frenzy and hate, which seeks to destroy all semblence other faiths, instead of living in harmony and peace. A crazy and mixed-up world.
on September 19,2012 | 08:11AM
Pookie_Baby wrote:
What about most of us that was offended by the mosque being built at ground zero? I know it's a totally different topic, but..........
on September 19,2012 | 07:44AM
soshaljustic wrote:
"... I don't live under Quranic law." A very apt expression for those in the free world that seek not to demean and denigrate but to express through drawings and other media representation the gods, goddesses, or prophets of any religion. Can this be made very clear to this people at this time in that regard that ALL religions are SUSPECT in this and other countries at this time, in public schools here too, all governmental bodies and all venues, as the country moves forward in a very secular way? Of course we must practice what we "preach." Many educated have long felt the need to separate the ideologies needed for living from those of fabricated belief systems steeped in faith. Historical violences are founded upon the faiths, yet many still seek to mediate the daily living modes more quickly when based upon sharing of resources. To these ends of resources we must return rather than the pagan beliefs of the caves, trees and seas from whence we evolved as a species full of the ego to create hierarchical and magical theologies. Moving faith beliefs to the backseat of our own practices would behoove our national dialogue and discourse with others on a global level. Take "God" off the economic representation of the greenback and the capitalistic lead of the country presenting a unified faith belief rather than a divisive and derisive free thinking ideological free agent that has no political ideological agenda may assist us. Until then, we may continually be seen as the theological bully that has citizens pumping out nasty anti-other theological falsehoods that denigrate with allies which do same, destined to continually demean and denigrate. Not a justification, intended to teach, explain how others may view the west, and the economic tokenism representation, along with the emotional displays of teaching faith beliefs in our own public school systems in the west. We have still not come to terms with, nor integration of our own beliefs of same, yet we dare to turn outward and bully, demean, denigrate, when we will not allow the teaching in our public schools. THAT SHOWS WE ARE AWARE? Can we bring this to discourse in our own nation? Do we dare?
on September 19,2012 | 07:54AM
loquaciousone wrote:
It's apparent the Muslims don't have the capacity to integrate into society. They're my way or the highway attitude seems to justify, in their minds, that its okay to wipe out anyone who doesn't agree with them.
on September 19,2012 | 08:06AM
Papakolea wrote:
"The cartoonist of the French caricatures published today, who goes by the name Luz, was defiant. "We treat the news like journalists. Some use cameras, some use computers. For us, it's a paper and pencil," he said. "A pencil is not a weapon. It's just a means of expression." Sorry Luz, you are no journalist. You are a cheap caricature who's just in it for the money. And your greed will cause innocent people to be hurt or killed.
on September 19,2012 | 08:07AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Do Muslims really think that Mohammed would be so thin skinned that he couldn't take some joking or criticism? Is there no Islamic corollary to Christianity's "turn the other cheek" ? Cripes these guys are sensitive little prima donnas.
on September 19,2012 | 09:25AM
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