Muslims decry French Mohammad cartoons as new insult

CAIRO, Sept 19 (Reuters) - Muslim leaders criticised a

French magazine's publication of cartoons of the Prophet

Mohammad on Wednesday as another Western insult to their faith

and urged France's government to take firm action against it.

"We reject and condemn the French cartoons that dishonour

the Prophet and we condemn any action that defames the sacred

according to people's beliefs," the acting head of Egypt's

Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, Essam Erian,

said.

The cartoons were featured in the French satirical weekly

Charlie Hebdo. Its front cover showed an Orthodox Jew pushing a

turbaned figure in a wheelchair and several caricatures of the

Prophet were included on its inside pages, including some of him

naked.

Their publication follows widespread outrage and violent

anti-Western protests in many Muslim countries in Africa and

Asia in the past week over an anti-Muslim film posted on the

Internet.

Erian said the French judiciary should deal with the issue

as firmly as it had handled the case against the magazine which

published topless pictures of Britain's Duchess of Cambridge,

the wife of Prince William.

"If the case of Kate (the duchess) is a matter of privacy,

then the cartoons are an insult to a whole people. The beliefs

of others must be respected," he said.

Erian also spoke out against any violent reaction from

Muslims but said peaceful protests were justified.

Mahmoud Ghozlan, spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood,

welcomed French government criticism of the cartoons but said

that French law should deal with insults against Islam in the

same way as it deals with Holocaust denial.

"If anyone doubts the Holocaust happened, they are

imprisoned, yet if anyone insults the Prophet, his companions or

Islam, the most (France) does is to apologise in two words. It

is not fair or logical," he said.

An official in Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church said the move

was a deliberate provocation. It showed "some international

powers" wanted violence to escalate in Egypt so that the country

would not develop economically, the official, who asked not to

be named, said without elaborating.

In 2005, Danish cartoons of the Prophet caused a wave of

violent protests across the Muslim world in which at least 50

people were killed.

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