France has sent riot police to guard the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo after it published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.
The latest issue features jokes and several caricatures of the Prophet, including some images of him naked.
The publication comes days after a low-budget anti-Islam film sparked widespread protests throughout the Muslim world.
Senior French Muslims have reacted angrily to the publication. The Rector of the Great Mosque of Paris Dalil Boubakeur said:
“I think that what they’ve done here is beyond comprehension. It breaches normal reasoning, and is a breach of responsibility.”
The French government has also criticised the cartoons, which take up several pages in this week’s issue, calling them a provocation.
“It people’s convictions have really been offended, and laws have been breached – then they can go to the tribunal. We are in a lawful state, laws must be totally respected. That has already happened once this week,” said French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault.
But the magazine’s editor Stephane Charbonnier hit back:
“We do caricatures of everyone every week, But when we do it with the Prophet, it’s called a provocation.”
French police are preparing for more protests after breaking up an illegal rally last weekend against the American film ‘Innocence of Muslims’.
The Foreign Ministry has stepped up security at French diplomatic offices around the world.