France govt to ban protest over anti-Islam film
PARIS (AP) - France's leadership is barring a planned protest by people angry over a film produced in the United States that insults the Prophet Muhammad, but are defending a newspaper's right to publish caricatures of the prophet.
France's foreign minister said security is being stepped up at some French embassies amid tensions in France and elsewhere around the film The Innocence Of Muslims. French authorities and Muslim leaders urged calm in the country with western Europe's largest Muslim population.
Riot police took up positions outside the Paris offices of a satirical French weekly that published crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad on Wednesday that ridicule the film and the furore surrounding it. The provocative weekly, Charlie Hebdo, was firebombed last year after it released a special edition that was "guest edited" by the Prophet Muhammad and took aim at radical Islam. The investigation into that attack is still under way.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said that organisers of the planned demonstration on Saturday against the film Innocence Of Muslims won't receive police authorisation for the protest.
Mr Ayrault told French radio RTL on Wednesday that "there's no reason for us to let a conflict that doesn't concern France come into our country. We are a republic that has no intention of being intimidated by anyone."
A wave of protest has swept some Muslim countries over the amateurish video posted online. The total number of deaths linked to unrest over the film is at least 28.
In Paris, prosecutors have opened an investigation into an unauthorised protest on last Saturday around the American Embassy that drew about 150 people and led to scores of arrests.
The tensions around the film in France provoked debate about the limits of free speech.
Mr Ayrault emphasised that the freedom of expression was guaranteed in France, but said it "should be exercised with responsibility and respect." Satirical, small-circulation weekly Charlie Hebdo often draws attention for ridiculing sensitivity around the Prophet Muhammad. Its website was down on Wednesday, but it was unclear why.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, speaking on France Inter radio, said on Wednesday, "In France we have freedom of expression, very well, this principle must not be infringed." But he added, "Is it pertinent, intelligent, in this context to pour oil on the fire? The answer is no." He said that he had "sent instructions to all countries where this could pose problems, we are taking specific security measures."
An umbrella group for French Muslims, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), issued a statement expressing its "deep concern" over the latest Charlie Hebdo caricatures and warned that "in a very tense context, it risks exacerbating tensions and provoking reactions." It urged French Muslims to "not cede to provocation and... express their indignation in peace via legal means."