Thursday, 20 September 2012

France Defends Charlie Hebdo, Takes Precautionary Measures in 20 Countries

Local Editor

France announced Wednesday that security was reinforced at French missions and other institutions in almost 20 countries after French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons that damage the sacred image of Prophet of Islam Mohammad.

The French Foreign Ministry stated that "France stepped up security and decided to close embassies, consulates, cultural centres and international French schools in around 20 countries on Friday."
In Paris, police were deployed outside the offices of Charlie Hebdo, as the magazine said its Internet site had been hacked and was not accessible.

Charlie HebdoThe left-wing, libertarian publication's offices were firebombed last year after it published an edition "guest-edited by Mohammad" that it called Sharia Hebdo.

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault stressed that what he referred to as "freedom of speech" was a "fundamental right" backed by the law.

He said that "anyone offended by cartoons could take the matter to the courts," reassuring that there would be no action against the weekly.

"We are in a country where freedom of expression is guaranteed, including the freedom to caricature... if people really feel offended in their beliefs and think there has been an infringement of the law -- and we are in a state where laws must be totally respected -- they can go to court," Ayrault said.

Ironically, "freedom of speech" defender said a request to hold a demonstration in Paris would be refused.

Protesting the french step, Al-Azhar in Egypt expressed "its and all Muslims' utmost rejection of the insistence of a French publication in printing caricatures offensive to Islam and its Prophet, the prophet of humanity."

Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb said in a statement he issued Wednesday that such acts "that fuel hatred in the name of freedom are completely rejected... Freedom should stop (where it affects) other people's freedoms."

On the other hand, the Vatican's official daily Osservatore Romano condemned on Wednesday the french magazine's decision to publish cartoons of a naked Prophet Mohammed as "fuel on the fire".
"The debatable initiative by the French magazine threatens... to add more fuel to the fire after the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi," the newspaper said.

"There is a risk of a new front in the protests," the daily said.

For it's part, Tunisia's ruling party said on Wednesday that Muslims have "the right to protest" against the French publication as long as they do so peacefully.

"Ennahda backs the right of Muslims to protest and calls on the use of peaceful and civilized means," the party said in a statement.

It dubbed Charlie Hebdo's publication as "a new attack against the Prophet", considering that "the caricatures were an attempt to derail the Arab Spring and push it into conflict with the West".
It said that was a "trap" that the Arab world should "not fall into".

French schools in Tunisia will close from Wednesday until Monday, the embassy said in a statement, adding that it has requested extra security.

"The French school network and Tunisia's French Institute will be closed from midday on Wednesday... until Monday morning... the embassy has asked the relevant Tunisian authorities to strengthen security around its sites," it said.

Similarily, the French consulate in Egypt said it will take the same measures, stating that schools and cultural centres in Egypt will close on Thursday after the French publication of cartoons mocking Prophet Mohammad.

"Although there has been no specific threat in Egypt, it has been decided as a precaution and as in other countries, to close French schools and cultural centres in Egypt on Thursday September 20," it said in a statement.

"The French embassy has also asked Egyptian authorities to continue to ensure the security of all our establishments in the country, by virtue of international conventions," the consulate added.

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