Saudi Muslim leader organising 'legal action against Charlie Hebdo' over Mohamed cartoons

Iyad Madani, of the Jeddah-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, said he had lawyers 'studying European and French laws'

The Saudi Arabia-based Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is planning to sue the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo following its publication of a front cover depicting the Prophet Mohamed.

It comes as demonstrations against the controversial image on last week’s “survivor” issue turned violent in Niger, Pakistan and Algeria, while the Iranian authorities banned a daily newspaper for a front-page headline allegedly offering Charlie Hebdo its support.

In Saudi Arabia, the former culture minister and now head of the Jeddah-based OIC condemned the new edition of Charlie Hebdo as “an idiotic step that requires necessary legal measures”.

Iyad Madani told a Saudi newspaper: “OIC is studying Europe and French laws and other available procedures to be able to take legal action against Charlie Hebdo.

“If French laws allow us to take legal procedures against Charlie Hebdo, OIC will not hesitate to prosecute the French magazine.”

On his personal Twitter feed, Madani added: “These cartoons have hurt the sentiments of Muslims across the world.

“Freedom of speech must not become a hate speech and must not offend others. No sane person, irrespective of doctrine, religion or faith, accepts his beliefs being ridiculed,” he said.

The OIC has member states across North Africa and the Middle East, among others, as well as permanent delegations to the UN and EU. Madani was nominated to be its secretary general by Saudi Arabia, and elected at the end of 2013.

Madani’s comments came as the Iranian newspaper Mardom-e-Emrooz – or Today’s People – was ordered to close after publishing a front page quoting George Clooney saying: “Je suis Charlie”.

The newspaper pictured Clooney wearing a “Je suis Charlie” – or “I am Charlie [Hebdo]” – pin at the Golden Globes, but expressed neither support for the statement or the magazine in general from Mardom-e-Emrooz itself.

In Niger, police fired tear gas on an opposition protest held in defiance of a ban declared by the government in the aftermath of anti-Charlie Hebdo protests.

Though Sunday’s demonstration was planned well in advance of the shootings in Paris that saw 17 people killed in three days, it was banned by officials following violent riots at the end of last week.

Protesters against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons have set churches on fire, attacked bars and police stations and killed 10 people across the capital Niamey.

Elsewhere in the Muslim world, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani condemned Charlie Hebdo, calling the newest cover image of Mohamed a blasphemous and irresponsible act.

“Freedom of expression should be used in a way to boost understanding between the religions,” he said in a statement issued by the presidential palace.

Iraq's prime minister Haider Abadi also issued a statement of condemnation, warning that “offensive words might lead to further bloodshed”.

He also reiterated his condemnation of the attacks on innocent victims in Paris, saying that terrorism, “has nothing to do with Islam in any way”.

In Algiers, the Pakistani city of Karachi and the Yemeni capital Sanaa, protesters and police clashed outside their respective French embassies.

In Egypt, the Islamist Noor Party denounced the latest Charlie Hebdo cover on its French-language Facebook page.

“Just as the Noor Party rejects the assault on civilians and the negative effects it has for all Muslims of Europe, it also rejects this barbaric, irresponsible act under the name of freedom of expression,” the statement declared.

In Gaza, vandals scrawled graffiti on the walls of the French Cultural Centre. In addition to statements praising Mohamed and declaring him off-limits for ridicule or satire, the vandals also wrote: “To hell, to a miserable destiny, French journalists.”

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