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One in 2 French 'against' printing Prophet cartoons

BACKLASH: A man holding a hat over his mouth as smoke billowed from tyres set on fire in Niger's capital, Niamey, yesterday. The city was hit by deadly riots on Saturday over Charlie Hebdo's publication of a cartoon depicting Prophet Muhammed.


    Jan 19, 2015

    One in 2 French 'against' printing Prophet cartoons


    ALMOST half of the French surveyed oppose publication of cartoons depicting Islam's Prophet Muhammed, according to a poll yesterday, as global debate deepened on the limits of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings.

    The Ifop poll found that 42 per cent believe the Prophet cartoons seen as offensive by many Muslims should not be published.

    Fifty per cent said they backed "limitations on free speech online and on social networks".

    However, 57 per cent said opposition from Muslims should not prevent the cartoons from being published, according to the poll, published in Le Journal Du Dimanche.

    The poll found overwhelming support - 81 per cent - for stripping French citizenship from dual nationals who have committed an act of terrorism on French soil.

    Sixty-eight per cent favoured banning French citizens from returning to the country if "they are suspected of having gone to fight in countries or regions controlled by terrorist groups", such as Syria. The same percentage backed bans on people suspected of wanting to join Islamist movements from leaving France. However, 57 per cent of respondents to the poll opposed French military intervention in countries including Libya, Syria and Yemen.

    The poll was conducted last week in the wake of the massacre at Charlie Hebdo's office in Paris, where gunmen killed 12 people, saying they were taking revenge for repeated publication by the magazine of the Prophet's caricatures.

    Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who were shot dead by the police after a three-day manhunt, have been given secretive burials in unmarked graves near Paris.

    Meanwhile, anger erupted in a string of Muslim countries after the satirical magazine responded to the attack by running another caricature last week, showing the Prophet under the headline "All is forgiven".

    The worst unrest has been in Niger, where at least 10 people were killed and some eight churches were torched on Saturday. Around 1,000 young men wielding iron bars, clubs and axes rampaged through the capital, Niamey, hurling rocks at the police.

    The riots prompted the authorities to ban a march by opposition supporters yesterday against what they see as poor governance, as police feared it could be infiltrated by anti-Charlie Hebdo protesters.

    However, hundreds of people gathered in defiance of the ban, forcing the police to fire tear gas to disperse the crowds.

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius condemned the violence in Niger, while President Francois Hollande called freedom of expression "non-negotiable".

    Charlie Hebdo's chief editor has defended the cartoons, saying they safeguard freedom of religion.

    "Every time we draw a cartoon of Muhammed, every time we draw a cartoon of prophets, every time we draw a cartoon of God, we defend the freedom of religion," Gerard Biard told NBC's Meet The Press programme.

    French investigators were focusing on 12 people detained early on Friday and being questioned over "possible logistical support" they may have given the Paris gunmen, sources said.

    Neighbouring Belgium deployed troops on the streets for the first time in 35 years, after security forces last week smashed a suspected Islamist "terrorist" cell planning to kill police officers.

    The Greek anti-terror police arrested at least four people suspected of links to the dismantled Islamist cell on Saturday. However, the authorities said yesterday that there was no link between those detained and the Belgium cell.

    AFP, Reuters