Paris — The managing editor of a French newspaper was fired after it republished caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed that sparked fresh anger among Muslims, employees at the paper said Thursday.
The drawings, which first ran in a Danish paper in September, were reprinted Wednesday in France Soir and several other European papers rallying to defend freedom of expression.
The managing editor of France Soir, Jacques Lefranc, was fired after the publication by owner Raymond Lakah, an Egyptian magnate, employees said. No official reason was immediately announced.
Islamic tradition bars any depiction of the prophet to prevent idolatry. The drawings have prompted boycotts of Danish goods and bomb threats and demonstrations against Danish facilities, and have divided opinion within Europe and the Middle East.
The cartoons include an image of Mohammed 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.
Angered by the drawings, Palestinian gunmen jumped on the outer wall of a European Union office in Gaza City last Thursday and demanded an apology. Masked gunmen also briefly took over an EU office in Gaza on Monday.
Syria has called for those behind publishing the cartoons to be punished. Danish goods were swept from shelves in many countries, and Saudi Arabia and Libya recalled their ambassadors to Denmark.
The front page of France Soir on Wednesday carried the headline “Yes, We Have the Right to Caricature God” and a cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud.
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 printed two of the caricatures as part of its coverage of the controversy.
Italy’s La Stampa printed a small version of the offending caricature, on page 13. Two Spanish papers, Barcelona’s El Periodico and Madrid’s El Mundo, also carried the photos.
The publication by French Soir drew a stern reaction from the French Foreign Ministry. While it said that freedom of expression is dear to France, the ministry “condemns all that hurts individuals in their beliefs or their religious convictions.”
The issue is sensitive in France, home to Western Europe’s largest Muslim community with an estimated 5 million people.
Mohammed Bechari, president of the National Federation of the Muslims of France, said his group would start legal proceedings against France Soir because of “these pictures that have disturbed us, and that are still hurting the feelings of 1.2 billion Muslims.”
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