Egypt’s influential Muslim Brotherhood demanded Thursday that France act against cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed in the same way as against the topless pictures of Prince William’s wife Catherine, as Egypt’s mufti urged Muslims worldwide to endure insults peacefully.
Its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), called for “firm and rapid measures against the (French) magazine” Charlie Hebdo which printed cartoons mocking the prophet on Wednesday.
The movement, from which President Mohammed Mursi emerged, pointed out that “the French judiciary has taken dissuasive measures against a magazine which published the photographs” of the former Kate Middleton, the British royal.
French authorities on Tuesday banned the magazine Closer from any further publication or resale of the pictures and launched a criminal investigation into how they were obtained.
The FJP also stressed “the tough stand (of French authorities) against those who deny the Holocaust” in France, according to AFP.
France has been bracing for a backlash following the publication of the Mohammed cartoons -- two of which portray the founder of Islam naked -- by Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly.
In anticipation of potential protests on Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, Paris said it would shutter its diplomatic missions, cultural centers and French schools in around 20 Muslim countries.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has said anyone offended by the cartoons could go to court, but he also stressed that in France “freedom of expression is guaranteed, including the freedom to caricature.”
Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, accused the French government of pandering to its critics by criticizing the magazine for being provocative.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s highest Islamic legal official said on Thursday that Muslims angered by the cartoons should follow his example of enduring insults without retaliating.
Western embassies tightened security in Sana’a, fearing the cartoons could lead to more unrest in the Yemeni capital, where crowds attacked the U.S. mission last week over an anti-Islam film made in America.
Condemning the publication of the cartoons in France as an act verging on incitement, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said it showed how polarized the West and the Muslim world had become.
His statement echoed one by al-Azhar, Egypt’s prestigious seat of Sunni learning, which condemned the caricatures but said any protest should be peaceful.
An official at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt, whose population of 83 million people is 10 percent Christian, also condemned the cartoons as insults to Islam.
Gomaa said Mohammed and his companions had endured “the worst insults from the non-believers of his time. Not only was his message routinely rejected, but he was often chased out of town, cursed and physically assaulted on numerous occasions.”
“But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the Prophet is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims.”
Last week some Egyptian protesters scaled the U.S. Embassy walls and tore down the flag. They clashed with police for four days, although most of the thousands of Egyptians who took to the streets did so peacefully.
Gomaa said insults to Islam and the response, including the killing of the U.S. ambassador in Libya and attacks on other Western embassies in the region, could not be dissociated from other points of conflict between the West and the Muslim world.
He cited the treatment of Muslims at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo, the U.S.-led war in Iraq, drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan, and the demonization of Muslims by far-right European parties as "underlying factors" for the tensions.
“To then insist on igniting these simmering tensions by publishing hurtful and insulting material in a foolhardy attempt at bravado -- asserting the superiority of Western freedoms over alleged Muslim closed-mindedness -- verges on incitement,” he said in his statement published on the Reuters blog FaithWorld.
For many Muslims, any depiction of Mohammed is blasphemous.
The furor over the anti-Islam film and the cartoons has presented a tough challenge to new authorities in Arab countries where popular uprisings have overthrown entrenched autocrats.