Nicholas Vinocur | Reuters | 5:47 a.m. CDT, September 19, 2012
PARIS (Reuters) – A French magazine ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad on Wednesday by portraying him naked in cartoons, threatening to fuel the anger of Muslims around the world who are already incensed by a film depiction of him as a womanizing buffoon.
The French government, which had urged the magazine not to print the images, said it was temporarily shutting down premises including embassies and schools in 20 countries on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers.
Riot police were deployed to protect the Paris offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo after it hit the news stands with a cover showing an Orthodox Jew pushing the turbaned figure of Mohammad in a wheelchair.
On the inside pages, several caricatures of the Prophet showed him naked. One, entitled “Mohammad: a star is born”, depicted a bearded figure crouching over to display his buttocks and genitals.
Initial reaction from Muslim countries was critical.
“Of course it will anger people further. It will raise tensions that were already dangerously high,” said Sheikh Nabil Rahim, a leading Salafist cleric in Lebanon.
“We will try to keep things managed and peaceful, but these things easily get out of hand. I fear there could more targeting of foreigners, and this is why I wish they would not persist with these provocations.”
In Egypt, Essam Erian, acting head of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, told Reuters: “We reject and condemn the French cartoons that dishonor the Prophet and we condemn any action that defames the sacred according to people’s beliefs.”