CAIRO -- A French magazine’s publication of satirical cartoons showing the prophet Muhammad drew criticism among Egyptians on Wednesday, with some calling the move yet another “provocative” attack on Islam and the sanctity of religion.
"Once again, we reaffirm our condemnation against anything that defames the prophet Muhammad and we call on France to take legal actions against this because these cartoons are defaming and slandering the Muslim population across the world,” said Ahmed Sabea, media coordinator for the Freedom and Justice Party.
Sabea, who speaks on behalf of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, believes that recent anti-Islamic rhetoric is meant to “threaten security of Arab nations while undermining their struggle for democracy.”
He added that his party welcomes France’s condemnation of the cartoons, but calls for legal action to be taken against the publishers.
As the region struggles to recover from protests triggered by the recent release of a video promoting the anti-Islamic film "Innocence of Muslims," grand imam Ahmed Tayeb of Cairo's Al Azhar mosque also slammed the cartoons, which he believes could stoke hatred among people of the world.
As of yet, no political parties or religious figures in Egypt have called for protests over the cartoons.
Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly, showed on its front cover an Orthodox Jew pushing on a wheelchair another man who was wearing a turban and traditional Middle Eastern attire as they both say “You must not laugh” in French. Several naked cartoons said to be depicting the Muhammad were also featured inside the magazine.
"Defaming any religion, whether in writing, drawing or video, is absolutely rejected,” said Hany Ramsis, a leader in the Maspero Youth Union, an Egyptian Christian movement founded after the uprising that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year.
“Egypt was spared from sectarian crisis that could have destroyed it after the anti-Islamic movie, we barely made it out of the last instigation," he added. "I’ve never believed in conspiracy theories, but it is becoming clear some people out there aim to incite strife in the Arab world to hurt our revolutions."
On Wednesday, the French government said it would strengthen security in 20 of its embassies in the Muslim world on Friday in case of violent protests. The French Embassy in Cairo announced it planned to shut down its cultural centers and schools on Thursday to take "precautionary" measures.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabian told reporters that while he respects freedom of expression, there is “no point in such a provocation.”
“When I saw this, I obviously sent instructions that in all countries
where this can cause problems, we take special safety precautions,” Fabian said
in a news statement on the ministry website.
At least 20 people were killed and hundreds were injured across the Middle East in a week of attacks and violent protests against U.S. embassies over “Innocence of Muslims,” which was produced in the U.S. and depicted Muhammad and Muslims as a child-molesters and thugs.
-- Reem Abdellatif
Photo: An Egyptian policeman stands guard in front of the French Embassy in Cairo on Wednesday, after a French magazine published caricatures of the prophet Muhammad. Credit: Nasser Nasser / Associated Press.