Cartoon prompts France to close embassies

Sept. 19, 2012 at 7:18 AM
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PARIS, Sept. 19 (UPI) -- French officials said the country's embassies worldwide will close Friday to try to blunt reaction against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The cartoons were published in satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo, a move likely to fuel outrage among Muslims who already are protesting a U.S.-made anti-Islamic film posted on YouTube, Britain's Sky News reported Wednesday.

Friday is a Muslim holy day.

Violent demonstrations against the film "Innocence of Muslims," which denigrates the Prophet Muhammad, have killed at least 30 people in several countries.

The magazine's decision was met with calls from political and religious leaders for media outlets to act responsibly and avoid fomenting the situation, Sky News said.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, in a statement, expressed "disapproval of all excesses."

The magazine's editor, originally a cartoonist under the name Charb, denied he was deliberately trying to be provocative.

"The freedom of the press, is that a provocation?" he said. "I'm not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn't go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe."

Dalil Boubakeur, a senior cleric at the largest mosque in Paris, called on France's 4 million Muslims to stay calm. France has the largest Muslim population in western Europe.

"It is with astonishment, sadness and concern that I have learned that this publication is risking increasing the current outrage across the Muslim world," he said. "I would appeal to them not to pour oil on the fire."

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