By Yasmine Saleh
CAIRO, Sept 19 Muslim and Arab leaders on
Wednesday denounced cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in a French
magazine as another insult to their faith but urged people to
shun a violent reaction and to protest peacefully.
The cartoons, featured in the French satirical weekly
Charlie Hebdo, showed an Orthodox Jew pushing a turbaned figure
in a wheelchair on its cover. Several caricatures of the Prophet
were included on its inside pages, including some of him naked.
Their publication follows widespread outrage and violent
anti-Western protests in many Muslim countries in Africa and
Asia in the past week over an anti-Muslim film posted on the
The Arab League called the cartoons "provocative and
outrageous". It said in a statement that they could increase the
volatile situation in the Arab and Islamic worlds since the
release of the film.
The League appealed to Muslims offended by the cartoons to
"use peaceful means to express their firm rejection."
The acting head of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and
Justice Party, Essam Erian, said the French judiciary should
deal with the issue as firmly as it had handled the case against
the magazine which published topless pictures of Britain's
Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of Prince William.
"If the case of Kate (the duchess) is a matter of privacy,
then the cartoons are an insult to a whole people. The beliefs
of others must be respected," he said.
Erian also spoke out against any violent reaction from
Muslims but said peaceful protests were justified.
Mahmoud Ghozlan, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood,
welcomed French government criticism of the cartoons but said
that French law should deal with insults against Islam in the
same way as it deals with Holocaust denial.
"If anyone doubts the Holocaust happened, they are
imprisoned, yet if anyone insults the Prophet, his companions or
Islam, the most (France) does is to apologise in two words. It
is not fair or logical," he said.
In Lebanon, leading Salafist cleric Sheikh Nabil Rahim said
the cartoons could lead to more violence.
"Of course it will anger people further. It will raise
tensions that were already dangerously high."
He accused those involved of trying provoke a clash of
civilizations, not dialogue.
"We will try to keep things managed and peaceful, but these
things easily get out of hand. I fear there could more
targetting of foreigners, and this is why I wish they would not
persist with these provocations."
Egypt's prestigious Al-Azhar institution for Islamic
denounced the cartoons as "spiteful trivialities which promote
hatred in the name of freedom".
In Tunisia, Ennahda, a moderate Islamist movement leading
the first elected government in the birthplace of the Arab
Spring, condemned the cartoons as an "agression" against Prophet
It urged Muslims to avoid falling into a trap designed by
"suspicious parties to derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a
conflict with the West" and a conflict amongst Muslims.
In 2005, Danish cartoons of the Prophet caused a wave of
violent protests across the Muslim world in which at least 50
people were killed.