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A French satire magazine was expected to draw anger from Muslims with the Wednesday publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, raising fears that a recent wave of riots could spread to France.
The Telegraph reported that the editor of the magazine, which is called Charlie Hebdo, said the cartoons would “shock those who will want to be shocked.”
The news came after Egypt late Tuesday issued arrest warrants for seven Egyptians and U.S. pastor Terry Jones on charges linked to the film Innocence of Muslims that has caused protests and violence across the Muslim world and in such places as Australia.
The Associated Press reported that among those charged was Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, who is believed to be behind the film. The case is seen mostly as symbolic given that the people are all believed to be outside of Egypt and are unlikely to travel there to face the charges.
Pakistan and Bangladesh had at the start of the week blocked Google’s YouTube to prevent people from seeing the trailer for the film there. And early Wednesday it emerged that Saudi Arabia was considering blocking the online video site as well. Bloomberg News cited the official Saudi Press Agency as saying the country will block the video unless YouTube removes it.
Later in the day, YouTube blocked the video in Saudi Arabia, saying it was willing to do so in countries where it is considered illegal by authorities. It has also done so in India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
At least 30 people have died so far in protests against the video held in more than 20 countries, according to latest counts in news reports.
Charlie Hebdo has been the center of controversy in France before with issues relating to Islam.
Last year, it published an issue that it marketed as being “guest-edited” by the Prophet Mohammed. Its offices in Paris were firebombed in retaliation, according to the Telegraph.
Political and religious leaders in France reacted by calling on the media to avoid inflaming an already volatile situation further.
A representative of Paris’ biggest mosque appealed to France’s four million Muslims to remain calm. “It is with astonishment, sadness and concern that I have learned that this publication is risking increasing the current outrage across the Muslim world,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.
Even before news of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, French Muslims were expected to protest this coming weekend, according to the paper. Social media messages called for Saturday demonstrations in Paris, Marseille and other big cities, a week after Paris police arrested 150 people after protest near the U.S. embassy.
On Wednesday, the French government announced plans to close its embassies in 20 countries as a precaution due to the publication of the cartoons.
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