Italian newspapers print caricatures of Prophet Muhammad

Two right-wing Italian newspapers on Friday published the 12 caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that have sparked outrage across the Muslim world, and printed editorials criticizing European media for giving in to pressure over the drawings. The drawings appeared on the front pages of the Libero daily under the headline "Muhammad rules here."

La Padania newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Northern League party, printed three of the drawings on its front page and the rest inside. It ran a headline criticizing the dismissal of the editor of a French newspaper that published the cartoons Wednesday: "Islam has already obtained the head of one (newspaper) director. ... No one is going to fire me!"

"It is not a challenge, a provocation, but the defense of freedom," La Padania's front-page editorial said. The Northern League is a right-wing, anti-immigration party whose representatives have often spoken out against Muslim immigrants in Italy. It is part of Premier Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government.

Friday' publication was the first time Italian papers printed all the drawings as an editorial statement. During the past week, newspapers have printed some of the cartoons as part of their coverage of the controversy, but Italy has so far not seen any significant outcry over the issue.

"What shame, Europe gives in to Islam and apologizes for the satire of Allah," Libero wrote under its banner headline. A former Vatican foreign minister, meanwhile, criticized the publication of caricatures of religious figures, but stopped short of endorsing censorship.

Cardinal Achille Silvestrini said in an interview published Friday in the Milan daily Corriere della Sera that Europe should not accept the practice of mocking religious symbols.

"Freedom is a great value, but it must be shared, it can't be unilateral," said Silvestrini, who no longer speaks for the Holy See. Silvestrini did not advocate censorship, saying instead there should be more "self-censorship."

The 12 cartoons first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September. One of the cartoons shows the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb.

They were reprinted in several other European newspapers this week in a gesture of press freedom. On Wednesday, the director of the France Soir daily was fired by the newspaper's Egyptian owner after the paper republished all the cartoons, reports the AP.


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