By Karima Rhanem | Morocco TIMES 2/2/2006 | 6:04 pm
Morocco has banned the distribution of the Wednesday edition of the French daily, France Soir, which republished insulting cartoons on the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) under the pretext of “freedom of expression”, said a release of the Ministry of Communication.
The Ministry said the ban was a reaction to "the intentionally offensive character of the cartoons to the Prophet and the fact that they were a blatant and gratuitous provocation for the beliefs of Muslims."
The release stresses that, while Morocco firmly believes in tolerance and openness, it deems that mutual respect is needed and does not accept nor allow that a religious reference shared by the entire Islamic nation be subject to mocked at.
It added that any other publication that offends the religious feelings of over 1.5 billion believers shall be denied access to the Moroccan territory.
The Moroccan Supreme Council of Ulemas also condemned on Tuesday the publication of these cartoons, regretting it came to provoke Muslims' feelings.
The council has also criticized the use of freedom of expression to attack millions of Muslims who reject the humiliation of any prophet, from Adam to Muhammad, including Moses and Jesus.
The Council urged the wise and decision makers around the world to unite to protect freedom and all the ethical values that are threatened by hatred and irresponsible behaviors.
Meanwhile the editor of the daily France Soir has been fired for republishing blasphemous cartoons of the Prophet.
"We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication of the cartoons," Egyptian-born Raymond Lakah, the paper's owner, said in a statement to AFP.
He decided to "remove Jacques Lefranc as managing director of the publication as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual."
Under the title “Yes, we have the right to caricature God”, the French daily put on its front page the depiction of Prophet Mohammed angry and sitting on a cloud with Buddha, and a Jewish and a Christian God.
While the Danish paper, 'Jyllands-POosten', which ignited the Arab world's anger, apologized on Monday for causing the “not intended offence” to Muslims, the French daily said it had published the cartoons to show that "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society.
More other European newspapers have reprinted the caricatures in the name of “freedom of expression”. These included the German Welt daily which put one of the drawings on its front page on Wednesday, saying the picture was "harmless" and regretting that the Danish Jyllands-Posten daily had apologised for causing offense.
In Spain, ABC and the Catalan paper El Periodico also published the cartoons. They were joined by the Italian papers La Stampa and Il Corriere della Sera.
Jyllands-POosten, Denmark's largest circulation daily, published in September 2005, twelve satirical cartoons on Prophet Mohammed (PBUH), after a writer complained that nobody dared illustrate his book about him.
One of the cartoons portrays the Prophet wearing a time-bomb-shaped turban and shows him as a wild-eyed, knife-wielding bedouin flanked by two women shrouded in black.
The cartoons have sparked uproar in the Muslim world. Several countries summoned their ambassadors or closed their embassies in Denmark; others called for a boycott of all Danish products. The debate on the issue was re-ignited last week when a Norwegian Christian magazine republished the illustrations, which Islam consider blasphemous.
The reprinting of the insulting cartoons by France Soir, a once successful daily which is now fighting to survive, has drawn condemnation from the six million Muslims living in France.
French Muslim leaders denounced in unison the reprinting of the cartoons and vowed to take the case to French courts.
“We call on French Muslims to peacefully protest this aggression on the Prophet of Islam,” the French Council for the Muslim Religion (CFCM) said in a statement after a meeting chaired by its head Dalil Boubackeur.
Boubakeur's call was echoed by Lhaj Thami Breze, the head of the Union of French Islamic Organizations (UOIF), who blasted the provocative and unnecessary publication.
The Muslim world's two main political bodies, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League, said Sunday they were seeking a UN resolution, backed by possible sanctions, to protect religions in response to the furor.