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French Muslim leader says Muslims should ignore controversial cartoons

FILE PHOTO: France's Grand Rabbi Gilles Bernheim listens to Mohamed Moussaoui (R), President of the French Muslim Council, after attending the New Year's speech by France's President Nicolas Sarkozy to France's religious communities at the Elysee Palace in Paris, January 21, 2010. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

PARIS (Reuters) - A senior French Muslim leader urged fellow Muslims on Tuesday to ignore cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad rather than resorting to violence in a call for moderation amid outrage across the Muslim world.

The cartoons have become a focus of controversy after an 18-year-old student of Chechen origin beheaded a teacher for showing the images to his pupils as part of a civics lesson.

France has allowed displays of the cartoons, which are considered blasphemous by Muslims. In some Muslim countries, politicians and other figures have made rhetorical attacks on French leaders, accusing them of being anti-Islam and calling for a boycott of French products.

The head of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, reminded worshippers that such caricatures were allowed under French law.

“This same law doesn’t force anyone to like them nor does it forbid anybody from hating them,” he said in a statement.

Moussaoui suggested Muslims should follow the example of the Prophet Mohammad, who, according to Islamic tradition, simply ignored insults when a crowd once poked fun of him by calling him “Mudammam” - the ugly.

“Isn’t it more in line with the prophet’s example to ignore these caricatures and consider them as having no relation whatsoever with our prophet?,” he said.

Reporting by Michel Rose, Editing by Angus MacSwan