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French Newspaper Reprints Controversial Cartoons


A French newspaper has published Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that have stirred outrage in the Muslim world. France-Soir newspaper says it is simply defending freedom of expression.

France-Soir plastered its own cartoon on its front page - spoofing not only the prophet Mohammed, but also Buddha, Jehovah and Jesus. The French newspaper wrote in a large headline, "Yes, one has the right to make fun of God."

Inside its pages, the newspaper ran all of the controversial cartoons of Mohammed that appeared in a Danish daily in September.

In an editorial, France-Soir defended its action as defending freedom of expression and reporting on a major subject of controversy.

It argued in an editorial that the Danish cartoons had absolutely no racial intention, no will to denigrate a community as such. France-Soir said some of the cartoons were funny, others less so. The newspaper said it simply wanted to publish them so the public could see for themselves.

But Dalil Boubakeur, head of the Paris Mosque, criticized the newspaper for publishing the cartoons.

Mr. Boubakeur said the cartoons hurt the feelings of Muslims. They act as provocations. "Liberty is liberty," he said, "but this is about people's sensitivities."

The Danish cartoons have stirred similar expressions of outrage around the Arab world. Arab ministers last month urged Denmark to punish the newspaper that published them. And while Denmark's prime minister refused to do so, citing again the liberty of expression, the Danish newspaper apologized for offending Muslims with the cartoons.

But Annabelle Arki, head of the European desk at the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says both the French and Danish newspapers have the right to print such caricatures.

Arki says press freedom means publishing all kinds of opinions - even those that some might consider shocking an defamatory. She says there are other means to fight slurs - for example by filing charges of defamation in the courts.

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