World news Brief, Friday September 21

France to close embassies, consulates, cultural centres and schools in 20 Muslim countries; Aung San Suu Kyi receives Congressional Medal in US; software millionaire entrepreneur to run for South Korean presidency; Israeli airstrike kills two in Gaza; Greece to sell off palaces, airports and islands to stem debt; and more

Top of the Agenda: France on Alert Over Prophet Cartoons

The French government announced that it would close its embassies, consulates, cultural centers, and international French schools (France24) on Friday in twenty Muslim countries after the Paris-based weekly, Charlie Hebdo, published offensive cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius defended the newspaper's right to publish the cartoons, but also questioned its judgment. "Is it relevant and intelligent in this environment to add fuel to the fire? The answer is no,'' he said on France Info radio. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault recently announced that the government would not authorize weekend demonstrations over the anti-Islam video in Paris, and urged aggrieved readers to seek reparation through the courts.


"The right to ridicule religion almost defines a free society. That right can never be surrendered. And you know what? Once it is established (or--as we now must say about the right to ridicule Islam--re-established), almost nobody will want to use it. Blasphemy remains interesting only so long as it retains the power to enrage. The way to deprive blasphemy of its power is not to ban it, but to disregard it. Until that happens, however, Western governments must not allow themselves to be conscripted into acting as the local censorship police for the Egyptian state," writes David Frum in the Daily Beast.

"Of course people should be entitled to mock Islam and any other religion. However, in the current climate of racial and religious prejudice in Europe, how can these cartoons be helpful? Charlie Hebdo is waging a rearguard battle," writes Philippe Marlière in the Guardian.



Burmese Leader Receives Congressional Gold Medal

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi received the Congressional Gold Medal (VOA) at a ceremony on Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. Suu Kyi was awarded the medal in 2008 while under house arrest; she was finally released in 2010. The democracy leader described the occasion as "one of the most moving days of my life."

SOUTH KOREA: Millionaire software entrepreneur Ahn Cheol-soo declared his candidacy for the South Korean presidency (Yonhap) on Wednesday. The three-way contest also includes the ruling Saenuri party's Park Geun-hye, who is aiming to be the country's first female president, and the Democratic United Party's Moon Jae-in.



Israeli airstrike kills two in Gaza

Greece to sell off palaces, airports and islands


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