French Weekly Prints Prophet Drawing, Free Press Plea

    A French satirical weekly published a new cartoon of the prophet Muhammad on its cover, as a French Muslim group condemned the violence that Danish caricatures sparked in Muslim countries. The wave of protests, “orchestrated four months after the facts, aims at caging all freedom of thought by artists and intellectuals,” Tewfik Allal, of the Association of the Freedom Manifesto, a Muslim organization, wrote in the weekly Charlie Hebdo. “Other communities — Jews, Christians — have felt insulted by this or that text, drawing or thought, but they reacted by going to court.” Charlie Hebdo, on the inside pages of today’s issue, also published the 12 Danish cartoons, first carried by Jyllands- Posten in September, joining newspapers in a number of countries that have printed them in the name of free speech. French President Jacques Chirac, speaking to the weekly cabinet meeting after Charlie Hebdo went on sale, said “freedom of expression should be used responsibly,” government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope told reporters. “Anything that can harm convictions of faith, in particular religious convictions, should be avoided,” Cope cited Chirac as saying. Chirac criticized “all manifest provocations that are liable to dangerously arouse passions. He condemned equally all types of violent” reactions. The Danish cartoons have been published in countries including Austria, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Switzerland. `Right to Caricature’ The French newspaper France Soir published the 12 cartoons on Feb. 1, with a headline that claimed “the right to caricature God.” The newspaper’s editor, Jacques Lefranc, was dismissed the following day by France Soir’s publisher, Egyptian-born Raymond Lakah, a Christian. MRAP, one of France’s biggest anti-racism associations, is suing France Soir for the publication of one cartoon, a depiction of Muhammad wearing a turban in the shape of a bomb, MRAP’s president, Mouloud Aounit, said by telephone. MRAP hasn’t yet taken any action against Charlie Hebdo, he said. The cartoon’s “manifest intention is to provoke, hurt, humiliate, stigmatize, and participate deliberately in the racist amalgam between Muslims and terrorists,” Aounit said. Because visual representation of Muhammad is considered blasphemy by Muslims, the cartoons sparked the anger of believers. Danish Boycott In countries including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Muslims are boycotting Danish goods, and, in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian militants threatened to kidnap Westerners if governments don’t apologize for the actions of newspapers in their countries. Iran cut trade relations with Denmark when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Feb. 4 issued a decree calling on the Trade Ministry to terminate economic agreements with all Western countries where the cartoons were published. The protests prompted United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan to call on Muslims to refrain from violence on Feb. 6, after crowds set fire to the Danish consulate in Beirut, and after the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Syria’s capital, Damascus, were attacked.

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