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France

Muslims sue satirical paper for blasphemy, MP for hate speech

media Cartoonist Charb, publishing director of Charlie Hebdo, in 2012 Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

French Muslims are taking satirical paper Charlie Hebdo to court for blasphemy over a front page insulting the Koran. In a separate case, a right-wing MP is being sued for accusing young Muslims of anti-Semitism.

A court in Strasbourg on Monday set the hearing into Charlie Hebdo's alleged blasphemy for 7 April.

The paper's premises were firebombed in 2011 after it published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

A Muslim legal defence group brought the case over a front page headlined "The Koran is shit".

Blasphemy is not an offence in France, apart from in Alsace-Moselle, three French departments which were annexed by Germany in 1871 and 1940-45 and kept part of the old German legal code when they returned to France.

The trial will be a test case because, although it bans public insulting religious communities "established on the territory", the agreement on the law only recognises Catholicism, three forms of Protestantism and Judaism.

A hearing has also been set for the 7 April, this time in the southern town of Nîmes, for a case against former decentralisation minister Claude Goasguen that accuses him of "offending the honour and dignity of the Muslim community", in the words of lawyer Khadija Aoudia, acting for one of France's two major Muslim associations, the CFCM.

Speaking to a gala organised by a pro-Israel group, KKL, Goasguen claimed that the history of the Holocaust could no longer be taught in French schools "because people are so scared of the reaction of young Muslims who have been drugged in the mosques".

Anti-Semitic slogans were chanted on a recent "Day of Rage" protest that brought together Catholic fundamentalists, far-right groups and supporters of comedian Dieudonné, some of whom are young Muslims.

Although the event took place in Paris, they were broadcast on television and the internet, thus allowing the CFCM's Abdallah Zekri to bring the case in Nîmes where he lives.

Claiming that the "Muslim community" is "always ready to denounce anti-Semitic acts", Aoudia said that media coverage of Goasguen's remarks "feed Islamophobia and create a strong feeling of rejection".

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