France to Close Embassies in Fear of Cartoon Backlash

France 24, September 19, 2012

France announced Wednesday it will close 20 embassies across the Muslim world on Friday after French weekly Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed naked, amid growing unrest over an anti-Islamic film that has left dozens dead.

The French foreign ministry announced Wednesday that France will close 20 of its embassies in Muslim countries this Friday following the publication of controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoons by satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Major protests in the Muslim world generally take place after Friday prayers.

The illustrations, which show the Prophet Mohammed naked and refer to the incendiary US-made film which has been fueling deadly unrest among Muslim communities for over a week, hit newsstands across France on Wednesday.

The magazine’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, told reporters that the pictures, which are printed on the back page, will “shock those who will want to be shocked.”

But the French government condemned the decision to go ahead with publication amid a global uprising ignited by the American anti-Islam video which ridicules the Prophet Mohammed. Dozens of people have been killed during the unrest, including the US ambassador to Libya, who was targeted at the consulate in Benghazi by suspected fundamentalists.

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told FRANCE 24 on Tuesday that while he respects freedom of expression, he sees “no point in such a provocation.” Stressing that the French government would never encourage the cartoons’ publication, he called for “reason to prevail.” Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a statement Tuesday saying: “In the current climate, the prime minister wishes to stress his disapproval of all excess and calls on everyone to behave responsibly.”

No backing down

It’s not the first time that Charlie Hebdo, which is celebrated for its irreverent treatment of politicians and public figures, has courted controversy with the Muslim community. In November last year the Paris offices of the paper were firebombed after it published a mocking caricature of Mohammad on its front page.

Editor Charbonnier, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, told French news channel iTele on Tuesday that the paper “does caricatures of everyone, and above all every week, but when we do it with the Prophet, it’s called provocation,” adding that if Charlie Hebdo stopped printing satirical work because of pressure or fear of offence, it would be reduced to selling 16 blank pages every week.

Representations of Allah or Mohammad are considered as blasphemous to Muslims. The main Islamic body in France, the French Muslim Council (CFCM), accused Charlie Hebdo of firing up anti-Muslim sentiment at a sensitive time.

“There is profound indignation at the publication of these cartoons,” leader Mohammed Moussaoui told FRANCE 24, describing the cartoons as “unjust” and “Islamophobic”. But Mouassoui also called on France’s Muslim community—which is the biggest in Europe—to “rise above their anger and not give in to the provocation”.

Pascal Boniface, who heads France’s International and Strategic Relations Institute (IRIS), tweeted on Wednesday morning that Charlie Hebdo “is not Islamophobic, but simply opportunist, cynical, and without scruples.”

But with calls already circulating on social networks and the internet for weekend protests over the US film that originally sparked unrest, concerns that the Charlie Hebdo cartoons could exacerbate the situation are mounting.

[Editor’s Note: Four have been injured after a package bomb exploded inside a Kosher store in Paris.]

Charlie Hebdo Mohamed

Charlie Hebdo Mohamed cartoon. Click for larger image.

Charlie Hebdo magazine, with English translations of legible portions. Click to enlarge.


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  • JackKrak

    Pre-emptive surrender.

    Thanks, France, for reminding me that there’s more than a grain of truth in a lot of stereotypes.

    • Puggg

      I sort of agree with what France is doing, but not for the reason they’re doing it. It made sense for countries to have embassies in each other’s countries when communication was only as fast as the ship sailed or the horse trotted or the courier walked. But communication today is light speed. We don’t really need physical embassies. Direct communication between foreign relations departments is good enough.

    • I believe Obama has proven he’s much better at groveling … France has nothing on the US’s new normal.

  • libertarian1234

    I have no sympathy for Muslims or their kooky beliefs, but I don’t agree with being disrespectful of anyone’s religious figures.

    I’m agnostic, but it still angers me to see Christ depicted in a vial of urine or Mary’s picture covered with elephant dung, or making plays claiming Christ was a homosexual.

    • Puggg

      Does it anger you enough to kill someone?  The answer is no, and that’s the point.

    • pc must go

      But Mohammed actually was  married to a 6 year old. Mohammed actually WAS  a terrorist. It’s not a disrespectful lie to say that. It’s the truth.

      It’s like admitting 70% of blacks are born out of wedlock. 

      • The__Bobster

        The truth is racist and is therefore no defense.

        • The cover illustration, “The Untouchables 2”, is a clever jab.

      • libertarian1234

        “It’s not a disrespectful lie to say that. It’s the truth.”

        I’m not referring to pointing out discrepancies and kookiness of Islam as a religion or to denigrating its followers for bad behavior as indications of disrespect.

        My comments solely concern disrespectful depictions of religious figures, as I described by giving examples of those about Christ that raise my ire.

        I might carry on an entire litany of denigration regarding Islam, its tenets and people, but that’s not the same as ridiculing their religious figures via drawings.

        “It’s like admitting 70% of blacks are born out of wedlock.”

        No, guy, it isn’t like admitting 70% of blacks are born out of wedlock.  I never included citing facts as showing disrespect for religious figures.


      • JohnEngelman

        It is also like pointing out that in the United States blacks have a murder rate that is nearly eight times the white murder rate

        or that the race gap in SAT scores between whites and blacks has grown since the school year of 1986 – 87.

    • Violence trumps truth these days. 2 + 2 = 5.  Muslims are peaceful and benevolent.  Jews and christians are the source of all evil.

  • libertarian1234

    That’s true.  The radical left hates Chritianity but loves Muslims and regards Islam as a religion of peace.

    Homosexual activists will also viciously denigrate Chritianity, because they despise its tenets regarding homosexuality as a sin even though the religion preaches love the person but hate the sin. 

    But they will say absolutely nothing about Islam where Sharia law is interpreted to mean by most Muslims that homosexuals should be stoned to death or hanged.

    The radical leftist hypocrisy among all the flakes, oddballs and misfits is probably due to their shared agenda to destroy the white Chritian power base in this country as their number one goal above all other things….at least for now.

    If you want to get them upset, outline valid reasons why there will be civil war in this country which will destroy all the gains they think they’ve made so far and will make their future plans null and void.

    Without the promise of the possibility of a rainbow utopia, life wouldn’t be worth living for many of them. 

  • [R2-D2 and Chewbacca are playing the holographic game aboard the Millennium Falcon]
    Chewbacca: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrgh!
    C-3PO: He made a fair move. Screaming about it can’t help you.
    Han Solo: Let him have it. It’s not wise to upset a Wookiee.
    C-3PO: But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid.
    Han Solo: That’s ’cause droids don’t pull people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose. Wookiees are known to do that.
    Chewbacca: Grrf.
    C-3PO: I see your point, sir. I suggest a new strategy, R2: let the Wookiee win.

  • jedsrael

    White Humanity’s free speech is incompatible with the dusky Muslism’s lust for conquest of the West.

    Since the West won’t fight back for fear of being deemed racist, then we’ve  abandoned our right of free speech for the benefit of whomever is our most aggressive assailant.

    9/11 was bigger than we realized at the time…

  • Viewer discretion advised.

  • bluffcreek1967

    If it was Christians burning our embassies overseas, every city in America would have large gatherings of people protesting and waiving posters depicting Jesus in the most demeaning manner. Christians would be mocked throughout the nation. Yet when it’s Muslims doing it, we ramain silent. Where are the mass protests here in America? Where are the signs and posters mocking Islam and their pedophile prophet? Where is the public outrage?

    Every city and town in America should have thousands of anti-Islamic leaflets scattered everywhere. There should be large posters of Muhammad depicted in the most degrading and mocking of manner. We must stand up and fight these people with every weapon and every form of propaganda available to us – and sometimes making a mockery of Islam and their demented and hallucinating prophet is quite in order.

    We need a campaign of ridicule against Muslims and their primitive, murderous cult. Embarrassment, shame and mockery is what Muslims desparately need from us. It won’t ultimately change their evil religion from bad to good, but it might wake up a few of them and cause them to come to their senses. Even if none of that happens, it will sure make many of us feel much better. Regardless, we need to put aside our polite manners and our so-called ‘tolerance’ for Islam and openly declare our hatred for this evil cult. We must do our best to make Muslims feel unwanted whenever they are around. We must shun them. We must refuse to do business with them. We must not smile at them on the street nor carry on with them as if everything is just fine between us. We must refuse to do business with Muslim owned stores.

    Folks, the days of polite discourse and ‘tolerance’ are over!

  • Sardonicus

    These cartoons are more vulgar and disgusting than funny. I would also say they are more of a provocation than a social satire. With that said, I think the French government’s decision to close their Middle Eastern embassies in advance of the publication speaks volumes for the state of free speech in the world today.

  • rightrightright
    Pat Condell says what we all think and says it well.  

    France recently elected a socialist, immigrant-loving government.  They get what they deserve.   

  • Les Francais sont tous les laches.

  • JohnEngelman

    Since the Russian Revolution the sympathy of Western liberals, democratic socialists, social democrats, and others on the democratic left for Communist governments can be understood. In practice Communist dictatorships violated liberal ideals regarding open political debate, due process of law, even economic equality. Nevertheless, the Communist dictatorships paid lip service to the concerns and values of the democratic left.

    This is not at all true of Islam. Everything secular liberals hate about the Bible Belt and the religious right is far more true of even moderate Islamic societies.

    A survey released December 3, 2010 by the Pew Research Center indicated that 84 percent of Muslims in Egypt, 86 percent of Muslims in Jordan, and 76 percent of Muslims in Pakistan favor the death penalty for those who leave the Muslim faith.

    A gay rights movement is unthinkable in one of these countries.

    In their sympathy for Muslims and their culture those on the left reveal a hostility for the Western civilization which made liberalism and the left possible. Karl Marx would not have been able to write his books in a Islamic country. The research material would not have been available. He almost certainly would have been arrested and executed.