PARIS - France's Muslim leaders called Wednesday, September 19, for calm after a satirical magazine published new cartoons mocking Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him).
"The CFCM calls on the Muslims of France not to give in to such provocation and urges them to express their indignation calmly and in lawful manner," the French Council of Muslim Faith said in a statement cited by Reuters.
The French weekly Charlie Hebdo published Wednesday cartoons displaying a man said to be the prophet as naked.
Entitled Muhammad: a star is born, one caricature depicts a bearded figure crouching over to display naked buttocks and genitals, a star covering his anus.
A second cartoon, in reference to the scandal over a French magazine's decision to publish topless photos of the wife of Britain's Prince William, showed a topless, bearded character with the caption: "Riots in Arab countries after photos of Mrs. Muhammad are published."
The CFCM accused the French magazine of fuelling anti-Muslim sentiments at a sensitive time.
"The CFCM is profoundly worried by this irresponsible act, which in such a fraught climate risks further exacerbating tensions and sparking damaging reactions," it said.
"The CFCM is deeply attached to freedom of speech but considers that nothing can justify insult and inciting hatred.
The French drawings come amid turmoil in the Muslim world over an American-made movie defaming the Prophet.
Produced by an American-Israeli real estate developer, the film, entitled Innocence of Muslims, portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.
The movie was promoted by US pastor Terry Jones, who angered Muslims in 2010 with plans to burn the Noble Qur'an.
The film triggered protests in several countries around the world, which left at least 14 people dead, including the US ambassador in Libya.
The French government condemned the publication of the Prophet cartoons as a provocation.
"We saw what happened last week in Libya and in other countries such as Afghanistan, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a regular government news conference.
"We have to call on all to behave responsibly."
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said France was closing its embassies, consulates, cultural centers and schools in 20 countries on Friday as a "precautionary measure".
Charlie Hebdo has a long reputation for being provocative.
Its Paris offices were firebombed last November after it published a mocking caricature of Prophet Muhammad.
In 2005, Danish cartoons of the Prophet sparked a wave of violent protests across the Muslim world that killed at least 50 people.
"Publishing Muhammad cartoons at this time, in the name of freedom, is irresponsible, Richard Prasquier, head of the body representing France's Jewish community, said.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the authorities had rejected a request to hold a march against the Mohammad film in Paris.
"There is no reason for us to allow conflicts that do not concern France to enter our country," Ayrault told RTL radio.Social media had circulated calls for a protest on Saturday against the film, after police arrested about 150 people who tried to take part in an unauthorized protest near the U.S. Embassy in Paris last week.