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Cartoon Gets No Laughs From Muslims

A man in Paris looks at the front page of a daily paper that reads "Yes, we have the right to caricature God." French and German papers reprinted controvertial cartoons of Mohammed Feb. 1, 2006.
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French and German newspapers on Wednesday republished caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that have riled the Muslim world, saying democratic freedoms include the "right to blasphemy."

Meanwhile, demonstrations and condemnations across the Muslim world continued and dozens of people from a small Islamic party staged a demonstration in front of the Danish Embassy to protest the caricatures.

The front page of the daily France Soir carried the headline "Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God" along with a cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud. Inside, the paper reran the drawings.

"The appearance of the 12 drawings in the Danish press provoked emotions in the Muslim world because the representation of Allah and his prophet is forbidden. But because no religious dogma can impose itself on a democratic and secular society, France Soir is publishing the incriminating caricatures," the paper said.

Germany's Die Welt daily printed one of the drawings on its front page, arguing that a "right to blasphemy" was anchored in democratic freedoms. The Berliner Zeitung daily also printed two of the caricatures as part of its coverage of the controversy.

The Danish daily Jyllands-Posten originally published the cartoons in September after asking artists to depict Islam's prophet to challenge what it perceived was self-censorship among artists dealing with Islamic issues. A Norwegian newspaper reprinted the images this month.

The depictions include an image of Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a burning fuse, and another portraying him holding a sword, his eyes covered by a black rectangle. Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry.

Angered by the drawings, masked Palestinian gunmen briefly took over a European Union office in Gaza on Monday. Syria called for the offenders to be punished. Danish goods were swept from shelves in many countries, and Saudi Arabia and Libya recalled their ambassadors to Denmark.

The Jyllands-Posten — which received a bomb threat over the drawings — has apologized for hurting Muslims' feelings but not for publishing the cartoons. Its editor said Wednesday, however, that he would not have printed the drawings had he foreseen the consequences.

Carsten Juste also said the international furor amounted to a victory for opponents of free expression.

"Those who have won are dictatorships in the Middle East, in Saudi Arabia, where they cut criminals' hands and give women no rights," Juste told The Associated Press. "The dark dictatorships have won."

Demonstrations and condemnations across the Muslim world continued.