A satirical magazine in France once firebombed for its portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed has published a 65-page cartoon biography of the Islamic holy figure.
Charlie Hebdo put together a 65-page comic book which went on sale yesterday.
The magazine’s website claims the publication is ‘halal’ insisting that Muslim scholars and historians researched and edited the cartoon book.
But it is likely to cause offence to some Muslims, and picture include Mohammed naked as a baby as well as violent images and other explicit scenes.
‘It is a biography authorised by Islam since it was edited by Muslims,’ the publisher, Stephane Charbonnier told AFP last week.
‘I don’t think higher Muslims could find anything inappropriate.’
The Financial Times reported that In a note on the back page, Charlie Hebdo editor Stéphane Charbonnier writes: ‘We have put into pictures the life of Mohammed as it is recounted by Muslim chroniclers. Without added humour. If the form seems to some blasphemous, the foundation is perfectly halal. Up to you to decide.’
Charbonnier reportedly lives under police protection and has received numerous death threats.
In September the offices were protected by riot police after the French government backed the publication of cartoons depicting a wheelchair-bound Prophet Muhammad being pushed by a rabbi.
The publication comes after a controversial few months concerning the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed.
In September an anti-Islam film made in California provoked some violent protests in several Muslim countries, and attacks on Western embassies.
But the magazine is frequently in the firing line when it comes to controversial publications.
Molotov cocktails were used to burn down the Charlie Hebdo offices in November 2011.
Yet despite the firebomb attack, the magazine went on to print the image of Mohammed in a special four-page supplement.
The weekly, known for its irreverent treatment of the political establishment and religious figures, bore the headline ‘Charia Hebdo’, in a reference to Muslim sharia law, and said that the issue had been guest-edited by Mohammed.
The incident pits Europe’s tradition of free speech and secularism against Islam’s injunction barring any depictions seen as mocking the Prophet.
The publication of cartoons of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper in 2005 sparked unrest in the Muslim world in which at least 50 people were killed.
While French Muslim groups criticised Charlie Hebdo’s work, they also condemned the firebomb attack.
The head of the Paris Mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, said at the time: ‘I am extremely attached to freedom of the press, even if the press is not always tender with Muslims, Islam or the Paris Mosque. French Muslims have nothing to do with political Islam.’
[Editor's note: Click here for a sample of Charlie Hebdo's irreverent humor.]