Fire at French newspaper after Muhammad issue
By ANGELA CHARLTON
PARIS (AP) — France’s prime minister condemned an apparent
arson attack early on Wednesday that destroyed the offices of a satirical French
newspaper that had “invited” the Prophet Muhammad as a guest editor this
A police official said the blaze broke out overnight at the
offices of Charlie Hebdo weekly, and the exact cause remains unclear. No
injuries were reported. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because an
investigation into the fire is under way.
Police cited a witness saying that someone was seen throwing
two firebombs at the building.
The newspaper director, who goes by the name Charb, said the
fire was triggered by a Molotov cocktail. He blamed “radical stupid people who
don’t know what Islam is,” for the apparent attack.
“I think that they are themselves unbelievers … idiots who
betray their own religion,” Charb said in an interview with Associated Press
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon called on the
authorities to find those responsible and bring them to justice.
“Freedom of expression is an inalienable value of our
democracy …. No cause can justify a violent action,” Fillon said in a
The front-page of the weekly, subtitled “Sharia Hebdo,” a
reference to Islamic law, showed a cartoon-like man with a turban, white robe
and beard smiling broadly and saying, in an accompanying bubble, “100 lashes if
you don’t die laughing.”
Newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in 2005
by a Danish newspaper triggered protests in Muslim countries.
The president of an umbrella group representing France’s
Muslim community – at some 5 million the largest in western Europe – also
condemned the apparent attack.
Mohammed Moussaoui, head of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, said his organization also deplores “the very mocking tone of the paper toward Islam and its prophet but reaffirms with force its total opposition to all acts and all forms of violence.”
Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet,
even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Charb said the current issue, which appeared on newsstands
Wednesday morning – after the fire – was centered on last week’s victory of a
once-banned Islamist party in Tunisia’s first free elections and last month
decision by Libya’s new leaders that Sharia, or Islamic legislation, will be the
main source of law in post-Gadhafi Libya.
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