Hezbollah chief: France dragged itself into battle with Muslims over Prophet cartoons

Hassan Nasrallah, the head of Lebanon's powerful Shia Muslim movement Hezbollah, delivering a televised address from an undisclosed location in Lebanon. (AFP)

The head of Lebanese Shia movement Hezbollah on Friday urged France to back down from its defense of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

"Do not allow this mockery, this aggression... to continue, and the whole world will stand with you," Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said.

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"French authorities instead of fixing the issue... became stubborn about this being freedom of expression," saying "'we want to continue with satirical cartoons'," Nasrallah added.

"You need to think about correcting this mistake."

Anger has erupted in the Islamic world over French President Emmanuel Macron's defense earlier this month of the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The French leader spoke after an extremist decapitated a schoolteacher in a Paris suburb on October 16.

The teacher had shown cartoons of the Prophet published by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a lesson on freedom of expression.

Nasrallah urged France to "be fair and just".

"No Muslim in the world will accept our dignity... the dignity of our Prophet, being insulted," he said.

France has been on high alert since a January 2015 massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo after it published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, with a wave of jihadist attacks killing more than 250 people since.

Nasrallah also condemned the killings a day earlier of three people in a church in the French city of Nice. The suspected attacker was a young Tunisian man.

"This event is rejected by Islam... which forbids the killing of innocents," he said.

"Even if the perpetrator was a Muslim, no one should hold Islam accountable for this crime."

He urged France to avoid stoking tensions.

"The French authorities have dragged themselves and the whole of France -- they want to drag all of Europe -- into a battle with Islam and Muslims for flimsy and sometimes unknown reasons," Nasrallah said.

But, he warned, it was a "losing battle".

Iran-backed Hezbollah is the only side not to have disarmed after Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war and is designated by the United States as a "terrorist" group.

But it is also a key political player in the country and holds seats in parliament.

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Last Update: Saturday, 31 October 2020 KSA 00:28 - GMT 21:28
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