French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has published a comic book biography of the life of the prophet Muhammad despite previously sparking international protests and being firebombed after running similar caricatures.
The magazine's website claims the publication is 'halal' insisting that the comic has been researched and edited by Muslim scholars and historians.
"It is a biography authorised by Islam since it was edited by Muslims," the publisher, Stephane Charbonnier told AFP last week.
"I don't think higher Muslims could find anything inappropriate."
However the drawing of naked men wearing turbans on page one is likely to undermine their claims that the publication is edifying.
Charbonnier insists the publication is educational, teaching people to understand Muhammad
France 24 quotes the editor as saying: "Before having a laugh about a character, it's better to know him. As much as we know about the life of Jesus, we know nothing about Muhammad."
Najat Vallaud- Belkacem, Minister of Women's Rights and government spokesperson told France 2:"I do not know what's in this publication so it is difficult to make a judgment.
"But I think we're in a country where it is always necessary to ensure a proper balance between freedom of expression and respect for law and order, the need not to throw oil on the fire" she added.
"Obviously, it is difficult to establish such a rule in the absolute, without looking at exactly what it is. I have not seen this document, it is difficult to judge,"
For Muslims it's not mocking cartoons alone that are deemed highly offensive, but any depictions of the Prophet.
Reaction to the cartoon book has so far been muted compared with previous representations by the French Weekly.
However already voices on social media are condemning the decision.
Charlie Hebdo has published satirical cartoons of the prophet Mohammed numerous times, sparking international outrage.
In October, Charlie Hebdo ran a cartoon of a rabbi pushing the Prophet in a wheelchair underneath the headline 'Intouchables 2'.
The figure being pushed says: "You mustn’t mock."
There were several more cartoons inside, including one showing the Prophet naked.
The timing of the cartoon was particularly incendiary, following closely on the heels of widespread violent protests by some Muslims against an anti-Islam YouTube film produced in California.
Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier said the cartoons 'would shock those who want to be shocked'
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".
Nevertheless, Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Stephane Charbonnier, defended the cartoons, arguing that they “would shock those who want to be shocked”.
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?"
Their offices were firebombed in 2011
Riot police had to be put on guard outside the Paris offices of the weekly publication and the French government closed 20 embassies around the world as a precautionary measure against retaliatory action.
Charbonnier lives under police protection after republishing Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad in 2011. Their offices were firebombed shortly after.
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