Apparently without their fired editor, France Soir's staff will not go down without a fight. From Spiegel Online -EUROPE'S CARTOON JIHAD
With Fresh Memories of Burning Banlieues, France Walks on Eggshells
By Kim Rahir in Paris
In France, the publisher of France Soir fired his editor in chief for mocking the debate over disparaging Danish caricatures of Muhammad. But the issue has divided the country into two camps -- those who believe in the right to unfettered free speech and those who believe newspapers and others should be far more respectful of religious beliefs.
French daily France Soir: "Help Voltaire, they have gone mad!"
The reaction came quickly. Just a few hours after the publication of several caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in the French daily France Soir, publisher Raymond Lakah fired the newspaper's editor in chief. In a terse statement, the Franco-Egyptian businessman expressed his "sorrow towards those in the Muslim community and all people who had been shocked or made indignant by the publication."
But despite the loss editor in chief Jacques Lefranc, France Soir hit the newsstands on Thursday with the headline: "Help Voltaire, they've gone mad!"
Apparently the other journalists at the Parisian tabloid intend to continue where their top editor had left off before his dismissal.
The paper's editorial continued in the same vein. "Can one imagine living in a society that has a ban on all cults? Where would that leave freedom of thought, freedom of speech or the freedom to come and go? We know such societies all too well. Take, for example Iran and its mullahs. Fanaticism is only able to feed itself through the capitulation of republicans and the secularists. And we already know what kind of defeats such a 'spirit of Munich' can lead to."
In the face of such strong reactions, France Soir's Wednesday cover did come across as somewhat spiteful: "Yes, we have the right to caricature God," read the headline above an illustration that featured a bomb turban-wearing Muhammad and other dieties. But in contrast to Denmark and Norway, where the editors who originally ran the cartoons have faced little fallout or punishment, France Soir sent its editor in chief packing. The reasoning is simple: France has Europe's largest population of Muslims -- 5 million -- and jokes about religion in the country, especially Islam, can be dangerous
"Perhaps people must be reminded that freedom of speech applies to anything that is respective of the laws," wrote the daily Republique des Pyrenees. "Every person in France has the right to criticize religion. "Blasphemy is officially permitted." But other papers expressed fear of hurting the feelings of people from other cultures. "Didn't anyone stop and think about the fact that in the indispensible Arab-Muslim civilization an act like this will be interpreted as a cruel provocation?" asked a commentator in Le Courrier Picard.
Conservative politicians also took part in the debate on Thursday, with many expressing their dismay over Lefranc's firing at France Soir. "This Islamic fundamentalism and intolerance is extremely dangerous," former French culture minister Francois Fillon said.
But others expressed their concern over the massive reaction against the cartoons in the Islamic world and also in the French Muslim community. The publication of the cartoons in Scandinavia caused so much anger that some Arab countries in the Gulf region are massively boycotting Danish products.
.. In Tunisia, the government banned the sale of France Soir's Wednesday edition, and a Moroccan newspaper demanded that the French paper be "punished." Indeed, in making his decision to fire Lefranc, fears that the children and grandchildren of France's Maghrebian immigrants might once again set fire to the streets of banlieues over this journalistic blasphemy couldn't have been far from publisher Lakah's mind.
And that's another reason why the sensitivities of the French Muslim community aren't to be played with lightly. Most of France's Muslims aren't just co-religionists. They also belong to the same socio-economic segment of society. "The question of Islam isn't just a religious one. it's also social and political. It's also about discrimination and racism," wrote the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur this week.
France's Muslim community is predominately made up of immigrants from Northern Africa and their children and grandchildren. They are the ones living in the suburban ghettos across the country. "They are the most frequent victims of prejudice and racially motivated attacks in our country," French political analyst Nonna Mayer told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
... Le Nouvel Observateur pointed to classic example of such thinking. One the paper quoted a young man named Said from Nice. He said he considered himself to be an atheist, but "when the mayor rejects the building of a mosque, I suddenly become a Muslim."
In light of the explosive mood in the suburbs, people are on edge. An overwhelming 86 percent of the French said in a survey released on Monday that the violence in the country's ghettos could reignite at any moment.
.. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned if the publication of such cartoons continues "it will have dangerous consequences by incensing the feelings of both the Islamic world and Muslims in Europe."