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Thursday, September 20, 2012

France temporarily closes its diplomatic missions in Egypt and in Middle East over an anti-Islam cartoons scandal

CSF troops and vehicles protecting French Embassy in Cairo

French Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday, 19 September 2012, that the country will temporarily close the Embassy and the consulates in Egypt and in other nineteen countries in Middle East as well. Such a move was caused by the recent scandalous publication of the offensive caricatures depicting Muslim Prophet Mohamed which appeared in one of the French magazines today.

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo have published recently the nude cartoons of Prophet Mohamed which are extremely offensive and could hurt the religious feelings of millions of Muslims in Middle East and all over the world. The editors of the magazine and the author of those cartoons refused to remove the provocative materials. French authorities also stated France is the country with the freedom of expression, so there is no law which could forbid publishing such information.

The representatives of the editorial board of the magazine also added that if the feelings of some people were hurt and the people feel themselves insulted over those cartoons, they can file the lawsuit and appeal to the Court in this case, but there could be restrictions in freedom of expression in France.

This scandalous publication came on the wave of the massive anti-American protests held in the Middle East and in the whole world. Those protests were sparked by the short film “Innocence of Muslims” allegedly produced in USA and offending Islamic Prophet Mohamed and Islam as a religion. Massive demonstrations with the serious clashes have been continued in Egypt, Libya and other countries demanding the persons responsible for producing this movie to be prosecuted. The protesters also demanded the official and public apology of the US Administration. Among the calls during the protests were even the demands to withdraw the US Ambassador and to break the relations with USA, boycotting it on all the levels. The protests in Libya resulted in the storming of US Consulate in Benghazi and killing of US Ambassador and four embassy workers.

Thus according to the statement of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs the embassy of France will be closed since Thursday due to possible unrests which could spark in Egypt over the cartoon publications. France will also close its diplomatic missions in other Middle East countries, and their work is expected to be resumed on Sunday.

French Embassy in Cairo also announced that it will close all the cultural centers and schools associated with the Embassy. The schools and cultural centers will also reopen on Sunday, if the situation will remain calm and there will be no clashes.

According to the official website of the French Embassy French Cultural Institute which is located in down town Cairo has also cancelled all the events scheduled for the period of time from Thursday till Sunday.

There are five consulates of France in Egypt, with its consulate-general located in Cairo. All of them are expected to be closed during the next days.

But according to the French consulate-general’s official statement the consulates will continue to serve French citizens living in Egypt in case of emergency.

French consulate also sent a request to the relevant authorities of Egypt to protect the embassy and to strengthen the security measures in the area in case of the possible protests and clashes. There are serious fears over the repeating of the US Embassy protests and clashes.
The French Embassy in Cairo is currently surrounded by the trucks and vehicles of the Central Security forces, and the additional CSF troops were also deployed in the area.

CSF at the French Embassy in Cairo
It is also worth mentioning here those abusive cartoons published in the French magazine have already met the reactions and condemnation in Egypt. For example, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood strongly condemned such a move.

Essam El-Erian, head of the Freedom and Justice Party, which is the political wing of Muslim Brotherhood, stated that French authorities and French judiciary should act decisive and take the legal measures against those responsible for this publication. He stressed that French Judiciary acted very fast in the case of the publication of Kate Middleton’s nude pictures, because they violate the private life and offend the royal family. The same decisive measures should be taken in the case of cartoon’s publication, as those cartoons offend and hurt the religious feelings of thousands of people.

Muslim Brotherhood’s spokesperson Mahmoud Ghozlan reminded also that those who question the holocaust in France should face the trials and imprisonment, according to the law, and French Judiciary usually takes the drastic measures. They have to act the same way with the current case of offending Islam and feelings of Muslim people too, thinks Muslim Brotherhood figure.

Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the highest Muslim-Sunni authority, issued a statement condemning the cartoons published in the French magazine. The statement said that Al-Azhar is rejecting those hate messages which are the attempts to instigate more hatred and violence.

In addition to that, the Muslim Brotherhood representatives also stated that they see all the peaceful protests and demonstrations as the rights of the citizens, but the violence and instigating of the clashes are to avoid.