09/20/2012, 00.00
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Middle East, fears of a new wave of protests over French Muhammad cartoons

French magazine Charlie Hebdo publishes satirical cartoons, reigniting Muslim anger. More protests are expected tomorrow in Muslim countries. For security reasons, France closes its embassies and schools in 20 countries. Catholics and Jews condemn the cartoons. A national day in honour of Muhammad and Islam will take place tomorrow in Pakistan. One of the actors in the movie 'Innocence of Muslims' says she and the rest of the cast were tricked, thinking they were playing in an historical desert movie. Her employer fired her because of fears of attacks from Muslim extremists.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - Cartoons about Muhammad published today in French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have reignited the anger of the Muslim world, where hundreds of protests held against a blasphemous movie about Muhammad caused the death of 28 people and injuries to hundreds of demonstrators.

In Kabul today, 500 took to the streets to protest against the movie 'Innocence of Muslims' and the French satirical cartoons.

In Pakistan, the authorities have planned peaceful demonstrations tomorrow in honour of the prophet and Islam. This comes after Islamist parties slammed the government for its deafening silence over the Muhammad movie. The French magazine cartoons could also lead to protests.

In Colombo, Sri Lanka, about a hundred Muslim women burnt US flags and effigies of US President Barack Obama.

Fearing attacks, France has decided to close its schools and foreign missions in 20 Muslim countries, including Egypt and Tunisia, until 24 September.

Experts expect more protests in Muslim countries but also in Europe. In Jakarta, Indonesia, the United States closed its embassy and consulates in Surabaya, Medan and Bali.       

Published in the name of freedom of the press and satire, the Charlie Hebdo's cartoons have been condemned by Christians and Jews.

The Vatican said the cartoons could lead to more protests.

Richard Prasquier, president of the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions, said, "in this climate, publishing the caricature is a serious act of irresponsibility."

The cartoons show a naked Muhammad in indecent positions. In one cartoon, the magazine copies the Kate Middleton's topless photo, showing the prophet with a woman's body, topless.

The leftwing magazine sold out 75,000 copies in a few hours.

Despite warnings from the United States and other Western countries, French authorities did not block the paper in the name of freedom of the press.

France's interior minister Manuel Valls said satire was a "fundamental right" of freedom of expression.

His colleague, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius disagreed, saying that Charlie Hedbo was being irresponsible by throwing "oil on the fire."

Whilst slamming the cartoons as an insult to the prophet, French Muslim groups issued statements to be read in mosques asking Muslims not fall for the provocation, and isolate instead violent elements.

The satirical cartoons have unleashed the anger of religious authorities in Muslim countries, especially in Egypt.

Al-Azhar, the most important Sunni university, condemned "these messages of hate," which, he said, "merely aim to instigate hate in the name of freedom."

Head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party Essam El-Erian said the French judiciary should act against Charlie Hedbo, which was attacked in 2011 for another satirical cartoon about the prophet.

The Islamist leader said the Egyptian government should guarantee peaceful demonstrations, avoiding a repeat of violent attacks against foreign missions.

Egyptian authorities have decided to take legal action against the maker of the movie 'Innocence of Muslims'.

On Tuesday, an Egyptian court issued an arrest warrant against seven US Copts and Protestant clergyman Terry Jones for their alleged role in producing movie and circulating the trailer of the anti-Islamic movie.

The action is symbolic but it is meant to shake up US public opinion to do something against the movie's makers.

The main offender is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-born Orthodox Copt who immigrated to the United States. He produced the movie and put the trailer online.

His trial in Egypt does not have a date yet, but in case of a guilty verdict, the offenders could get the death penalty.

Yesterday, Cindy Lee Garcia, one of the actors employed in the movie said she had no idea what the film director had in mind.

Nakoula, who has already been convicted of fraud, recruited the actors ostensibly to play in a desert movie. The movie was later overdubbed with a story about Muhammad.

The actress said that the original movie was changed in post-production and offensive language was added..

She claims that she "never called the founder of Islam a child molester." Now she has been terrorised and fears Muslim extremists.

She was also fired from her job, "as she is now considered a target and the safety of those in her presence cannot be guaranteed," the lawsuit states.

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