After worldwide protests, some of them deadly, over an amateur film mocking the Prophet Muhammad, a French magazine now seeks to make Muslims even more angry.
A French magazine ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad on Wednesday by portraying him naked in cartoons, threatening to fuel the anger of Muslims around the world who are already incensed by a California-made video depicting him as a lecherous fool.
The drawings in the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo risked exacerbating a crisis that has seen the storming of U.S. and other Western embassies, the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and a deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Riot police were deployed to protect the paper's Paris offices after the issue hit news stands.
It featured several caricatures of the Prophet showing him naked in what the publishers said was an attempt to poke fun at the furore over the film. One, entitled "Mohammad: a star is born", depicted a bearded figure crouching over to display his buttocks and genitals.
The French government, which had urged the weekly not to print the cartoons, said it was shutting embassies and schools in 20 countries as a precaution on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called the drawings outrageous but said those who were offended by them should "use peaceful means to express their firm rejection".
Tunisia's ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, condemned what it called an act of "aggression" against Mohammad but urged Muslims not to fall into a trap intended to "derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West".
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