The editor of a French newspaper that printed a cartoon featuring the Prophet Muhammad on its front page has been sacked for offending Muslims. Jacques Lefranc was dismissed by the owner of France Soir, as his paper became embroiled in a developing row between Muslims and European press.
Muslim countries have imposed sanctions against Denmark after a Danish paper first printed Muhammad cartoons. Other European journals reprinted the images to show support for free speech.
France Soir printed a newly created cartoon on its front page showing Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy figures sitting on a cloud, with the caption "Don't worry Muhammad, we've all been caricatures here".
Publications in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain re-ran the Danish cartoons. However France Soir owner Raymond Lakah said in a statement to AFP he "decided to remove Jacques Lefranc as managing director of the publication as a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual".
"We express our regrets to the Muslim community and all people who were shocked by the publication." Islamic tradition bans depictions of the Prophet or Allah.
The caricatures from Denmark's Jyllands-Posten included drawings of Muhammad wearing a headdress shaped like a bomb, while another shows him saying that paradise was running short of virgins for suicide bombers.
Syria and Saudi Arabia have recalled their ambassadors to Denmark, while the Danish-Swedish dairy giant Arla Foods says its sales in the Middle East have plummeted to zero because of a boycott of Danish products.
There have also been demonstrations and death threats in some Arab nations. The offices of Jyllands-Posten had to be evacuated on Tuesday because of a bomb threat.
The paper had apologised a day earlier for causing offence to Muslims, although it maintained it was legal under Danish law to print them. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the paper's apology, but has rejected calls to punish the paper, saying the government cannot censor the press, reports BBC news. I.L.
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