The French Prime Minister, defending France's long tradition of freedom of expression, has said those offended by cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed have recourse to the courts.
Speaking on Radio RTL, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said anyone offended by the cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, published Wednesday in the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, can go to court. Ayrault said:
"We are in a country where the freedom of expression is guaranteed, along with the freedom to caricature. If people really feel their beliefs are offended and think the law has been broken – and we are in a state where the law must be totally respected — they can go to the courts." (The Guardian)
The French state has guaranteed the freedom of the press in a long tradition dating back to 1881.
Regarding the ban on a planned demonstration against the film "Innocence of Muslims" Ayrault went on to explain that permission to protest had been denied "because there is no reason to allow conflicts that do not concern France into our country." (Naharnet)
In allowing the publication of the Mohammed cartoons, French authorities are well aware of the inflammatory risk they pose. France has the largest Muslim population of any European country.
French Muslims have been urged to act calmly as Charlie Hebdo hit the newsstands. RT reported Dalil Boubakuer, rector of Paris’s Grand Mosque, said:
"I learn with much astonishment, sadness and concern that a publication could exacerbate the outcry in the Muslim world. I call on all not to pour oil on the fire.
But I regret that incitement to religious hatred is not punishable by law as incitement to racial hatred is. We appealed to the District Court of Paris after the cartoons Charlie Hebdo published in 2006, but our complaint was not upheld.”