France, home to the largest Muslim community in Western Europe, is bracing Thursday for what they expect to be a sea of backlash after a French magazine published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, fuelling the flames of protest that are already raging across the Muslim world over a US-made anti-Islam film.
The French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, published cartoons mocking the low budget "Innocence of Muslims" film, which triggered protests in at least 20 countries since it went viral. The publication satirized the Muslim prophet with four caricatures, including two drawings showing him naked.
According to AFP, the magazine's website was swiftly put out of action by a cyber-attack which the police are now investigating and riot police were deployed outside the magazine's Paris offices. But France fears the swift action was not enough to derail future protests and possible anti-French violence.
On Friday, the Muslim day of prayer, Parisian officials plan to shutter embassies, consulates, diplomatic missions, cultural centres and French schools in around 20 Muslim countries for fear of violent protests.
Already, according to Reuters, Iranian students protested outside the French embassy in Tehran on Thursday, as they shouted, "Death to France, death to America" and held signs urging the French people to demand their government respect sacredness and humanity.
In the French district of Belleville, enraged Muslims lined up at news-stands early this morning in order to obtain and destory copies of the weekly.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said anyone offended by the cartoons could go to court, but he also stressed that in France "freedom of expression is guaranteed, including the freedom to caricature".
Leaders of France's four million Muslims said an appeal for calm would be read out in mosques across the country tomorrow but also condemned the magazine for publishing “insulting” images.