French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, less than one year after being firebombed for running similar caricatures.
Riot police are now guarding the Paris offices of the weekly publication and the French government has closed 20 embassies around the world as a precautionary measure against retaliatory action.
The publisher of Charlie Hebdo, Charb, shows the press the latest controversial issue
The front page of Charlie Hebdo carries the headline “Intouchables 2” with a cartoon underneath showing a rabbi pushing the Prophet in a wheelchair.
The figure being pushed says: "You mustn’t mock."
There are several more cartoons inside, including one showing the Prophet naked.
For Muslims it's not mocking cartoons alone that are deemed highly offensive, but any depictions of the Prophet.
French police guard the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo in Paris
For many, their relationship with the Prophet is a very personal one and some regard their love for him as being higher even than that for close family members.
The cartoons were condemned by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who, speaking during a visit to Cairo, told Le Monde that the French Government is "against hostile provocations at this time".
He added: "The freedom of the press, is that a provocation? I'm not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn't go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe.
"If we start to question whether we have the right to draw Muhammad or not, if that is a dangerous thing to do or not, the next question is going to be: can we depict Muslims in the newspaper? And then: can we represent human beings in the newspaper?"
French political commentator Agnès Poirier told The Huffington Post UK that the French political classes are currently "walking on eggshells".
But she defended the publication of the cartoons.
She said: “I’m in favour of people expressing their opinions.
"The freedom of the press is paramount. It’s not negotiable. Charlie Hebdo has always been quite provocative. It doesn’t pull its punches. The magazine is not anti-Islam. It’s just doing its job of being satirical.
"It also runs anti-Christian cartoons and nobody raises an eyebrow. People who don’t like it shouldn’t buy it."
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