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French Muslim leaders appeal for calm as Charlie Hebdo prints new Mohammed front page

Charlie Hebdo's journalists work on this week's issue in the offices of Libération newspaper in Paris
Charlie Hebdo's journalists work on this week's issue in the offices of Libération newspaper in Paris AFP

French Muslim leaders appealed for calm as Charlie Hebdo’s surviving journalists prepared to issue a new issue with the prophet Mohammed on its cover. The Grand Mufti of Egypt called the cartoon a “racist act”.

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France’s two Muslim umbrella groups on Tuesday called on the faithful to “keep calm and avoid emotional or incongruous reactions” to the publication of a depiction of the prophet, considered blasphemous by many Muslims.

Click for RFI reports of the Charlie Hebdo killings

Freedom of opinion must be respected, declared the French Council of the Muslim Religion (CFCM) and the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF).

The Islamophobia Observatory campaign group described the new issue as “a provocation”, while declining to comment further “out of respect for the victims” of last week’s attack in which Islamist gunmen killed four cartoonists and 13 other people.

The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Chaouki Allam, reacted angrily to the cartoon, reproduced on several websites ahead of the paper’s publication.

“This issue will inspire a new wave of hatred in French society and Western society in general,” he commented. “And what the magazine is doing is not working for coexistence and the dialogue of civlisations.”

Allam has condemned last week’s attack as “terrorist” and Egypt’s authoritative Al Azhar mosque called it a “criminal act”.

"This action is an unjustified provocation against the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims," the Egyptian Sunni authority, Dar al-Ifta, said.

The front page of Wednesday’s issue of Charlie Hebdo features a picture of a crying Mohammed holding a “Je suis Charlie” poster under the headline “All is forgiven”.

Because of huge demand for the special "survivors' issue", some three million copies are to be printed, compared to a usual print run of 60,000, and it will be translated into 16 languages, including Arabic.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls praised the public's reaction to last week's killings at a special session of the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon.

"Faced with this test our people came together," he said. "They marched in dignity, in fratenrnity to declare their attachment to liberty and to say not to terrorism, intolerance, anti-Semitism and racism. And all forms of resignation and indiffernce as well."

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