A French publication 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 video depicting him as a lecherous
The drawings in the satirical left-wing weekly Charlie Hebdo
appeared as the Muslim world shook with a wave of violence following the release
of an amateurish film made in the US – Innocence of Muslims – that ridiculed the
founder of Islam. The cartoons risked exacerbating a crisis that has seen the
storming of American and other Western embassies, the killing of the US
ambassador to Libya, and a deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
the latest cartoons’ publication on Wednesday, assailants threw an an incendiary
device into a kosher food store in Sarcelles, on the outskirts of Paris, leaving
one person lightly wounded. The two attackers were described as wearing black
The magazine featured several caricatures of the prophet, showing
him in situations that the publishers said was an attempt to poke fun at the
furor over the film. One, titled “Muhammad: A star is born,” depicted a bearded
figure bending over to display his buttocks and genitals.
published a cartoon showing an ultra-Orthodox Jew pushing him in a wheelchair,
with the caption, “The Untouchables 2” – a reference to a well-known Hollywood
film about the mafia, implying that the Muslims, like the mafiosos, act above
the law and are impossible to punish. The cartoon’s speech balloon says,
“Faut pas se moquer” (one must not laugh).
The announcement, the night before, that the cartoons would appear set off alarm
bells. The head office of the magazine in Paris was immediately placed under
tight police protection.
The building is in the 20th Arrondissement,
which has a high density of immigrants and is considered a sensitive area. In
November 2011, the offices were set on fire after the publication of similar
drawings angered Muslims.
The kosher food store attacked Wednesday,
belonging to the Jewish Naouri supermarket chain, was full of shoppers beginning
their preparations for the pre-Yom Kippur meal, Moshe Cohen- Sabban, president
of the region’s Jewish communities, told the online edition of the French
newspaper Metro. According to the paper, the wounded shopper sustained
contusions on both arms.
Metro also quoted Marc Djeballi, a member of the
Sarcelles Jewish community, as saying the device had been “a grenade, not a
Sarcelles, often called “Little Jerusalem,” has a high
percentage of residents with North African backgrounds, both Muslim and Jewish.
Its dwellings resemble shikunim, the public housing erected in Israel to absorb
new immigrants in the 1950s and 1960s.
“It seems there is no doubt about
the anti-Semitic nature of the attack,” said Richard Prasquier, president of
CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewry.
The organization published a
communiqué stating that “those who continue to incriminate the Jewish people,
against all evidence, in the making of [the American] film incite hatred in our
Nothing, nothing at all, can justify the wave of violence that
has been unleashed on the world since its release.”
The statement was
referring to the claim made early on that the filmmaker was an Israeli-American,
a charge that has since been largely debunked.
The French government,
which had urged Charlie Hebdo not to print the cartoons, said it would shut
embassies in 20 countries on Friday as a precaution. Friday is the Muslim
Sabbath, and protests sometimes break out after prayers.
Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called the drawings outrageous, but said that
those who were offended should “use peaceful means to express their firm
Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, condemned what it
called an act of “aggression” against Muhammad, but urged Muslims not to fall
into a trap intended to “derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with
During a news conference, Mufti Dalil Boubaqueur, rector of
the Paris Mosque, described the publication of the cartoons as “dangerous” and
“irresponsible.” The caricatures, he said, repeated “the same stupid things, the
same calumnies, the same ignominies. It seems me to be a psychotic
Prasquier denounced the cartoons on his group’s
“To publish such a cartoon today in ‘the name of freedom’ is a
form of irresponsible arrogance,” he wrote.
Nevertheless, Marine Le Pen,
leader of the far-rightwing National Front Party, defended the weekly’s right to
publish the cartoons in the name of freedom of expression. She went on to say
during an interview on the France 2 channel that for the government to step in
would be “anti-republican.”
“The power to do this is staggering,” she
JTA contributed to this report.