France boosts security as magazine publishes new cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammad
A French policeman stands guard outside the headquarters of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Sept. 19, 2012. / AP
(CBS/AP) PARIS France stepped up security at some of its embassies on Wednesday after a satirical Parisian weekly published crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The prime minister said he would block a demonstration by people angry over a movie insulting to Islam as the country plunged into a fierce debate about free speech.
The government urged the magazine Charlie Hebdo not to publish the cartoons, but defended its right to do so. The cartoon played off of the U.S.-produced film "The Innocence of Muslims," and riot police took up positions outside the offices of the magazine, which was firebombed last year after it released an edition that mocked radical Islam.
CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports that the French government has also decided to temporarily close diplomatic offices and schools in 20 countries on Friday, the holy day in the Muslim world which often sees protests form as worshipers pour out of mosques following Friday prayers.
The amateurish movie, which portrays the prophet as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester, has set off violence in seven countries that has killed at least 28 people, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
The French Foreign Ministry issued a travel warning Wednesday urging French people in the Muslim world to exercise "the greatest vigilance," avoiding all public gatherings and "sensitive buildings" such as those representing the West or religious sites.
Government authorities and Muslim leaders urged calm in France, which has western Europe's largest Muslim population.
Phillips reports Muslim organizations in France have warned the publication of the cartoon will likely exacerbate relations between Muslims and the rest of the French population, and may provoke further violence around the world, but the groups have called for peaceful demonstrations in France.
"This is a disgraceful and hateful, useless and stupid provocation," Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Paris Mosque, told The Associated Press. "We are not like animals of Pavlov to react at each insult."
CFCM, an umbrella group for French Muslims, issued a statement French Muslims to "not cede to provocation and ... express their indignation in peace via legal means."
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said organizers of a demonstration planned for Saturday against "Innocence of Muslims" won't receive police authorization.
"There's no reason for us to let a conflict that doesn't concern France come into our country," Ayrault told French radio RTL.
Paris prosecutors have opened an investigation into an unauthorized protest last Saturday around the U.S. Embassy that drew about 150 people and led to scores of arrests.
The tensions surrounding the film are provoking debate in France about the limits of free speech.
The small-circulation weekly Charlie Hebdo often draws attention for ridiculing sensitivity around the Prophet Muhammad, and an investigation into the firebombing of its offices last year is still open. The magazine's website was down Wednesday for reasons that were unclear.
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