French cartoons add fuel to the fire

Muslim and Arab leaders on Wednesday denounced blasphemous cartoons in a French magazine as
another insult to their faith but urged people to shun a violent reaction and to protest peacefully.
The cartoons featured in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Their publication follows
widespread outrage and violent anti-Western protests in many Muslim countries in Africa and Asia in
the past week over an anti-Muslim film posted on the Internet.
The Arab League called the cartoons “provocative and outrageous”. It said in a statement that they
could increase the volatile situation in the Arab and Islamic worlds since the release of the film. The
League appealed to Muslims offended by the cartoons to “use peaceful means to express their firm
The acting head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, Essam Erian, said the
French judiciary should deal with the issue as firmly as it had handled the case against the magazine
which published topless pictures of Britain’s Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of Prince William.
“If the case of Kate (the duchess) is a matter of privacy, then the cartoons are an insult to a whole
people. The beliefs of others must be respected,” he said. Erian also spoke out against any violent
reaction from Muslims but said peaceful protests were justified. Mahmoud Ghozlan, spokesman for
the Muslim Brotherhood, welcomed French government criticism of the cartoons.
In Lebanon, leading Salafist cleric Sheikh Nabil Rahim said the cartoons could lead to more violence.
“Of course, it will anger people further. It will raise tensions that were already dangerously high.”
He accused those involved of trying provoke a clash of civilizations, not dialogue. “We will try to keep
things managed and peaceful, but these things easily get out of hand. I fear there could more
targetting of foreigners, and this is why I wish they would not persist with these provocations.”
Egypt’s prestigious Al Azhar institution for Islamic denounced the cartoons as “spiteful trivialities
which promote hatred in the name of freedom”.
In Tunisia, Ennahda, a moderate Islamist movement leading the first elected government in the
birthplace of the Arab Spring, condemned the cartoons. It urged Muslims to avoid falling into a trap
designed by “suspicious parties to derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West” and
a conflict amongst Muslims.
In 2005, blasphemous cartoons caused a wave of violent protests across the Muslim world in which at
least 50 people were killed. —

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