PARIS — Muslim groups and scholars in France and elsewhere voiced concerns on Tuesday that a satirical newspaper’s first cover since the attack on its journalists last week could ignite dangerous new passions in a debate pitting free speech against religious doctrine.
Egypt’s leading Islamic authority warned that the new cartoon, depicting the Prophet Muhammad, would exacerbate tensions between the secular West and observant Muslims. Death threats circulated online against the surviving staff members of the newspaper, Charlie Hebdo.
The offices of the newspaper were attacked last Wednesday in apparent retaliation for routinely publishing cartoons lampooning the Muhammad. Islam forbids all images of the prophet.
The cover of the new issue — already widely seen on the Internet — will be published on Wednesday in a print run of up to three million copies, compared with a typical print run of 60,000 copies. It shows the prophet displaying the slogan that has become the symbol of resistance to Islamic militants: “Je Suis Charlie,” or, “I am Charlie.” He is shown weeping under a headline that reads: “All is forgiven.”
Muslim organizations in France issued a joint statement on Tuesday expressing concern about the “numerous anti-Muslim acts observed these days,” and calling on the authorities to guarantee the security of mosques.
The statement on Tuesday also commented on the new Charlie Hebdo cover, urging the French Muslim community to “remain calm and avoid emotive or incongruous reactions incompatible with dignity,” while “respecting freedom of opinion.”
Dar al-Ifta, which issues religious edicts, called on the French government to “announce their rejection of this racist act that attempts to raise religious strife and sectarianism, and deepen hatred.”
The blunt admonition, from a pillar of the mainstream Sunni Muslim establishment in the Arab world’s most populous country, came as funerals were held in France and Israel on Tuesday for the victims of the extremist attacks in Paris.