A French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has published several offensive caricatures of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, threatening to fuel outrage in the Muslim world first sparked by an obscure anti-Islam film made in the U.S. The Parisian weekly had intended to mock the violent response to the video, with a cover featuring "an Orthodox Jew pushing a turbaned Muhammad in a wheelchair and the headline: 'You must not laugh.'" Now, the French government fears the cartoons will only give rioters an excuse to turn their rage on French embassies after a week of attacking American diplomatic posts, including the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. France has ordered its embassies and schools closed in 20 countries on Friday, the Muslim prayer day, which often serves as an occasion for large protests. Will the French cartoons, seen as blasphemous by many Muslims, shift the focus of the riots onto France, or merely provoke renewed attacks on the U.S.?
Now it's France's turn: It looks like the U.S. will no longer "command the full attention of angry Muslims marching in the streets," says Ed Morrissey at Hot Air. So thanks for that, Charlie Hebdo. The magazine should have known what was coming — its offices were firebombed last year after publishing cartoons ridiculing Islam. The French government is trying to prevent the worst by "clamping down on protest," but, if recent history is any guide, that won't stop extremists from taking a swipe at their new target.
There's still plenty of heat on the U.S.: Judging by the first demonstrations after the cartoons came out, says Agence France Presse, the U.S. is not off the hook. Protesters in Lebanon, for instance, are certainly angry over the French cartoons, but, if anything, the rage they're focusing on the U.S. has only intensified. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Islamist group Hezbollah, even went so far as to call the film blamed for triggering the riots, Innocence of Muslims, "the worst attack ever on Islam."
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The entire West is the target, and always was: Closing embassies won't spare France, says David Frum at The Daily Beast. "The people who instigate these protests seek a very particular goal: an extension of Egyptian and Pakistani style blasphemy laws into the West." France can't budge on this, nor can the U.S. "The right to ridicule religion" is one of things that defines a free society. We'll both be targets as long as we refuse to act as the "local censorship police for the Egyptian state."
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