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Muhammad cartoons by French satirical magazine set off fierce debate

UPDATE: Charlie Hebdo sued by Muslim organisations (Index on Censorship, 7 December 2012)

(CPJ/IFEX) - September 19 2012 - The following is a CPJ Blog post:

By Jean-Paul Marthoz

Connection impossible! The Charlie Hebdo website was not accessible on Wednesday afternoon after the French satirical magazine proclaimed that it had published fresh cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Stéphane Charbonnier, its editor-in-chief, confirmed that the site had been attacked by hackers.

This might be a minor event in the national and international row that the impertinent weekly has triggered with its decision to defiantly hoist the banner of freedom of expression while the world is still being rocked by protests over the film The Innocence of Muslims. Violence linked to the film has killed at least 28 people in seven countries over the past week, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, news reports say.

To the chagrin of its detractors, Charlie Hebdo is a recidivist. In 2006 the weekly unabashedly reprinted cartoons mocking the Prophet in the Danish Jyllands-Posten, and in 2011 it published a special "Sharia edition" which lambasted the rise of Islamist parties in Tunisia and Egypt.

Condemnations have been immediate. "This is a new act of Islamophobia aimed at deliberately offending the feelings of Muslims," said the French Council of the Muslim Faith, calling "on all French Muslims not to cede to provocation." The president of the major Jewish organization known by its acronym CRIF, Richard Prasquier, also expressed his disapproval at a "form of irresponsible panache."

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