PARIS (AFP/EJP) --- French Jewish organisations were caught between disapproval of the Mohammed cartoons published Wednesday by satirical publication Charlie Hebdo and support for the weekly.
The president of CRIF, the representative body of Jewish organizations in France, Richard Prasquier “disapproved” of the cartoons, which in the context of current Islamophobic tensions, constituted “irresponsible action”, he wrote.
Invoking the victims of demonstrations against the Islamophobic film Innocence of Muslims, the CRIF president wrote: “It’s in consideration of these deaths that we disapprove of the initiative taken by Charlie Hebdo.”
“These days published in the name of freedom, the Mohamed cartoons are blatantly irresponsible,” Prasquier asserted.
According to him, “religious critics must themselves accept being criticised: not only in principle, but in reality”.
For its part, the National Office of Vigilance Against anti-Semitism (BNVCA) said in a statement it “totally condemned the behaviour of Charlie Hebdo’s journalists and cartoonists, who, abusing the right to freedom of expression, have gratuitously offended both Jews and Muslims with their designs.
In response, the Union of Jewish Students in France (UEJF) issued a statement saying they didn’t believe the publication had offended “anyone” and that “those who attack Charlie Hebdo are really taking aim at those seeking to defend freedom of expression”.
“Faced with those wanting to invert values and purport blasphemy as a form of aggression, Charlie Hebdo’s actions remind us that in France, freedom of expression is an unwavering right,” insisted the UEJF president Jonathan Hayoun.
The beleaguered publication also received the backing of SOS Racism who described themselves as “shocked by the reaction of public authorities that have condemned” the cartoons, “whilst on the other hand being responsible for afeguarding freedom of expression”.
Following the publication of the cartoons by Charlie Hebdo Wednesday, the Minster of the Interior Manuel Valls recalled that freedom of expression is “a fundamental right”, whilst stressing that any demonstration which threatened public order “would not be tolerated”.
At a meeting with French Muslim leaders, he emphasised that “everyone must act responsibly, every individual act, every written word, every cartoon, every statement, could instigate, could provoke confrontation”.
“Any demonstration which threatens to disrupt public order, to provoke, to instigate others, to spread hatred, will not be authorised, will be banned and I have given instructions to public officials that these bans will be strongly upheld,” the minister continued.
Referring to the outbreak of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic incidents, Valls concluded that “it’s fair to say that within our society there are those who continue to provoke fractures and divisions”.
The role of the government, he claimed “is on the other hand to restore calm and to reassure”. “As a result of this, any demonstration which threatens to disrupt public order, to instigate, to provoke, to perpetuate stereotypes, will not be tolerated”. “Those wishing to participate in these provocative actions must know to expect a very firm response from the state,” he affirmed.
Regarding calls to protest, Valls insisted that “it seems that extremely marginal groups want to use this situation to provoke the state and to damage the reputation of Islam in France”.
New calls to publicly demonstrate emerged Saturday, in Paris as well as other large French cities, in protest at the Islamophobic film Innocence of Muslims, and which were circulated via social media.
Last Saturday, between 200 and 250 people took to the streets for an unauthorised demonstration close to the US Embassy, the Elysee Palace and the Ministry of the Interior, in one of the most secure areas of Paris. Following the protests, 150 people were arrested by police.