A French magazine ridiculed the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday by portraying him naked in cartoons, threatening to fuel the anger of Muslims around the world who are already incensed by a film depiction of him as a lecherous fool.
The drawings in satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo risked exacerbating a crisis that has seen the storming of US and other Western embassies, the killing of the US ambassador to Libya and a deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan.Riot police were deployed to protect the magazine’s Paris offices after it hit the news stands with a cover showing an Orthodox Jew pushing the turbaned figure of Muhammad in a wheelchair.
On the inside pages, several caricatures of the Prophet showed him naked. One, entitled ‘Muhammad: a star is born’, depicted a bearded figure crouching over to display his buttocks and genitals.
The French government, which had urged the weekly not to print the cartoons, said it was temporarily shutting down premises including embassies and schools in 20 countries on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers.
Arab League secretary-general Nabil Elaraby called the drawings provocative and outrageous but said those who were offended by them should “use peaceful means to express their firm rejection”.
Tunisia’s governing Islamist party, Ennahda, condemned the cartoons as an act of “aggression” against Muhammad. It urged Muslims, in responding to it, to avoid falling into a trap designed by “suspicious parties to derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West”.
In Lebanon, Salafist cleric Sheikh Nabil Rahim said the incident would raise tensions that were already high.