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French Foreign Ministry closes embassies following Muhammad cartoon

Following the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, the French Foreign Ministry shuttered embassies and international schools in 20 countries.

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French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo's publisher, known only as Charb, speaks to journalists, on September 19, 2012 in Paris, at the headquarters, after showing the last issue which features a satirical drawing titled 'Intouchables 2' on the front cover. (AFP/Getty/AFP/Getty Images)

Following the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in a French satirical magazine, the French Foreign Ministry shuttered embassies and international schools in 20 countries

The ministry also sent out a strong travel warning that urged French citizens in the Muslim world to exercise "the greatest vigilance," and to avoid public gatherings and "sensitive buildings" such as religious centers. 

The provocative magazine known as Charlie Hebdo said that it published the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad because it seemed timely following the recent worldwide protests over the film "Innocence of Muslims."

The magazine's director Stephane Charbonnier told CNN, "It happens that the news this week is Muhammad and this lousy film, so we are drawing cartoons about this subject. It's more turning in derision this grotesque film than to make fun of Muhammd."

France's government is backing the magazine's right to publish the images. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault told reporters that freedom of expression is guaranteed, but added that it "should be exercised with responsibility and respect." He did however tell Reuters that the cartoon may be a bad idea saying, "In the current climate, the prime minister wishes to stress his disapproval of all excess and calls on everyone to behave responsibly."

Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the Associated Press that Charlie Hebdo could be throwing "oil on the fire."

Riot police have also been sent to the Charlie Hebdo offices.  

Charlie Hebdo's chief editor, who goes by the name of Charb, remained steadfast on his right to publish the images regardless of how it may affect current unrest in the Muslim world. Charb told the Associated Press, "Muhammad isn't sacred to me. I don't blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law; I don't live under Quranic law."

Charlie Hebdo is well known in France for provoking Muslims with depictions of Muhammad. In November 2011, the magazine put a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover. Soon after, the Paris office of the magazine was firebombed. But this time it may be Charb's wallet that is attacked, not his offices. 

Abdallah Zekri, president of the Paris-based Anti-Islamophobia Observatory, told the AP that his group is considering filing a lawsuit against the magazine.

"People want to create trouble in France," he said. "Charlie Hebdo wants to make money on the backs of Muslims." 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/france/120919/french-foreign-ministry-closes-embassies-following-muhamm