France will close its embassies and schools in around 20 countries on Friday because of fears of a hostile reaction to a magazine’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, its foreign ministry said today.
Laurent Fabius, the foreign minister, earlier announced that he had ordered special security measures “in all the countries where this could pose a problem”.
Riot police took up positions outside the Paris offices of a satirical French weekly that published crude caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed today that ridicule the film and the furor surrounding it.
The provocative weekly, Charlie Hebdo, was firebombed last year after it released a special edition that was “guest edited” by the Prophet Mohammed and took aim at radical Islam. The investigation into that attack is still under way.
“In France we have freedom of expression, very well, this principle must not be infringed.” But he added, “Is it pertinent, intelligent, in this context to pour oil on the fire? The answer is no,” Mr Fabius said on French radio today.
An umbrella group for French Muslims, the CFCM, issued a statement expressing its “deep concern” over the latest Charlie Hebdo caricatures and warned that “in a very tense context, it risks exacerbating tensions and provoking reactions.
“It urged French Muslims to “not cede to provocation and … express their indignation in peace via legal means.”
Meanwhile, Paris is also barring a planned protest over the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims”.
Jean-Marc Ayrault, the prime minister, said that organisers of the planned demonstration on Saturday will not receive police authorisation for the protest.
“There’s no reason for us to let a conflict that doesn’t concern France come into our country. We are a republic that has no intention of being intimidated by anyone,” Mr Ayrault said on French radio.