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France Braces Itself for New Muhammad Cartoon Wars

A French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has published new cartoons featuring (what else?) depictions of the prophet Muhammad. Fearing violence at its embassies in the Muslim world, France has decided to preemptively close them. The Financial Times has more:

Jean-Marc Ayrault, the prime minister, affirmed the right to freedom of expression but pointedly added his “disapproval of all excesses” and called for all parties to exercise “tolerance and respect”.

But Stephane Charbonnier, editor of Charlie Hebdo, said Mr Ayrault should “support the freedom of the press in the Republic rather than be influenced by a band of ridiculous clowns who demonstrated outside the American embassy”.

The magazine depicts Mohammed on its cover alongside an orthodox Jew, and on the inside the magazine shows the Muslim Prophet as a naked film star, referring to the movie which sparked riots last week. Another cartoon says “riots in arab countries after photos of Mrs Mohammed are published”, referring to British royal Kate Middleton’s topless photos.

Charlie Hebdo has a long history of controversial cartoons, including one of Muhammad that led to the fire-bombing of its office last year. In what may be a related incident, a kosher store was bombed today in a Paris suburb, injuring four.

Meanwhile, more than a thousand protestors clashed with police in Islamabad this morning. Many were armed with clubs as police fired tear gas and tried to beat back the crowd. The U.S. embassy, according to Reuters, has advised all Americans to avoid travel to Pakistan.

At Via Meadia we respect people’s right to be offended. But we do not respect your right to riot and kill. Our founding fathers realized that a free press was the greatest bulwark of liberty, and enshrined our freedom of speech and press right alongside our freedom of religion in the First Amendment, and rightfully so. Nor can these riots be religiously justified; violent mobs are more offensive to God than any cartoon.

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