France said it would temporarily close its embassies and schools in 20 countries Friday after a satirical magazine in Paris published insulting cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, a move it fears will add “fuel to the fire” of global tensions over an anti-Islam film.
The French government, which had urged the weekly not to print the cartoons, said it was shutting embassies and schools as a precaution on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers.
“We have indeed decided as a precautionary measure to close our premises, embassies, consulates, cultural centers and schools,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters. Riot police were also sent to the offices of the weekly magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby called the drawings outrageous but said those who were offended by them should “use peaceful means to express their firm rejection”.
Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party, Ennahda, condemned what it called an act of “aggression” against Muhammad but urged Muslims not to fall into a trap intended to “derail the Arab Spring and turn it into a conflict with the West”.
In the northern Paris suburb of Sarcelles, one person was slightly hurt when two masked men threw a small explosive device through the window of a kosher supermarket. Police said it was too early to link the incident to the cartoons. One small local Muslim group filed a legal complaint against the weekly but there were no reports of reaction on the streets of France.
The acting head of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said French courts should deal with the case as firmly as it dealt with a magazine that published topless photographs of the U.K.’s Duchess of Cambridge.
The publication came amid widespread outrage over a crude, provocative film, made by anti-Islam campaigners in California, that mocked the Prophet and ignited days of deadly protests including an attack in Libya in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed.
The front-page cartoon had the figure in a wheelchair saying “You mustn’t mock” under the headline “Untouchable 2,” a reference to a hugely popular French movie about a paralyzed rich white man and his black assistant.
Charlie Hebdo’s Paris offices were fire bombed last November after it published a mocking caricature of Muhammad.
Many Muslims consider any representation of Allah or Muhammad offensive.