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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 22:54 GMT
Muhammad cartoon row intensifies
French daily newspaper France Soir
Some of the cartoons depict the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist
Newspapers across Europe have reprinted caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad to show support for a Danish paper whose cartoons have sparked Muslim outrage.

Seven publications in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain all carried some of the drawings.

Their publication in Denmark led Arab nations to protest. Islamic tradition bans depictions of the Prophet.

The owner of one of the papers to reprint - France Soir - has now sacked its managing editor over the matter.

The cartoons have sparked diplomatic sanctions and death threats in some Arab nations, while media watchdogs have defended publication of the images in the name of press freedom.

Reporters Without Borders said the reaction in the Arab world "betrays a lack of understanding" of press freedom as "an essential accomplishment of democracy."

'Spiting Muslims'

France Soir and Germany's Die Welt were among the leading papers to reprint the cartoons, which first appeared in Denmark last September.

The caricatures include drawings of Muhammad wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb, while another shows him saying that paradise was running short of virgins for suicide bombers.

France Soir originally said it had published the images in full to show "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society.

Palestinians burn a Danish flag
30 Sept: Danish paper Jyllands-Posten publishes cartoons
20 Oct: Muslim ambassadors in Denmark complain to Danish PM
10 Jan: Norwegian publication reprints cartoons
26 Jan: Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador
30 Jan: Gunmen raid EU's Gaza office
31 Jan: Danish paper apologises
1 Feb: Papers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain reprint cartoons

But late on Wednesday its owner, Raymond Lakah, said he had removed managing editor Jacques Lefranc "as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual".

Mr Lakah said: "We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication."

The president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), Dalil Boubakeur, had described France Soir's publication as an act of "real provocation towards the millions of Muslims living in France".

Other papers stood by their publication. In Berlin, Die Welt argued there was a right to blaspheme in the West, and asked whether Islam was capable of coping with satire.

"The protests from Muslims would be taken more seriously if they were less hypocritical," it wrote in an editorial.

La Stampa in Italy, El Periodico in Spain and Dutch paper Volkskrant also carried some of the drawings.

European Muslims spoke out against the pictures.

In Germany, the vice-chairman of the central council of Muslims said Muslims would be deeply offended.

"It was done not to defend freedom of the press, but to spite the Muslims," Mohammad Aman Hobohm said.


Correspondents say the European papers' actions have widened a dispute which has grown very serious for Denmark.

Burning copy of Satanic Verses
1989: Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Khomeini calls on Muslims to kill British author Salman Rushdie for alleged blasphemy in his book The Satanic Verses
2002: Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel's article about Prophet and Miss World contestants sparks deadly riots
2004: Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh killed after release of his documentary about violence against Muslim women
2005: London's Tate Britain museum cancels plans to display sculpture by John Latham for fear of offending Muslims after July bombings

The publication last September in Jyllands-Posten has provoked diplomatic sanctions and threats from Islamic militants across the Muslim world.

Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller has postponed a trip to Africa because of the dispute.

Thousands of Palestinians protested against Denmark this week, and Arab ministers called on it to punish Jyllands-Posten.

Syria and Saudi Arabia have recalled their ambassadors to Denmark, while Libya said it was closing its embassy in Copenhagen and Iraq summoned the Danish envoy to condemn the cartoons.

The Danish-Swedish dairy giant Arla Foods says its sales in the Middle East have plummeted to zero as a result of the row, which sparked a boycott of Danish products across the region.

The offices of Jyllands-Posten had to be evacuated on Tuesday because of a bomb threat.

The paper had apologised a day earlier for causing offence to Muslims, although it maintained it was legal under Danish law to print them.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the paper's apology, but defended the freedom of the press.

Hear the editor of France Soir defend his decision to publish

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