France may become the latest flashpoint for Muslim anger on Wednesday when a French magazine publishes cartoons caricaturing the Prophet Mohammed.
The French satirical weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo, says the cartoons include several caricatures featuring Mohammed that the magazine’s editor said would "shock those who will want to be shocked."
The cartoons will be published as protests rage across the Middle East and beyond over an inflammatory US-made film that portrays Muslims as gratuitously violent and ridicules Mohammed. About 30 people have died in the protests so far, according to a France 24 report.
Charlie Hebdo is likely expecting trouble. Last year his magazine published an edition "guest-edited" by the Prophet Mohammed that it called Sharia Hebdo. The magazine's offices in Paris were later fire-bombed and the incident was linked to radical Muslims.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, in a statement, voiced his "disapproval of all excesses."
Meanwhile, the magazine's editor, who is a cartoonist and goes by the name, Charb, says “free speech” is the underlying issue, whether to have it in France or relinquish the right to free speech to sooth tensions.
"The freedom of the press, is that a provocation?" he said. "I'm not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn't go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe."
About four million Muslims live in France, more than in any other Western European country. Many within the French Muslim community are relatively recent immigrants.