(Newsroom America) -- The publication in France of a cartoon lampooning the Prophet Mohammed, Islam's holiest figure, has led Paris to close 20 embassies in Arab and Muslim nations, reports said Wednesday.
The decision comes after the weekly Charlie Hebdo decided to publish the cartoons, which featured a naked Mohammed.
In addition, the French Foreign Ministry issued travel warnings to citizens in the Muslim world, to exercise "the greatest vigilance," avoiding public gatherings and "sensitive buildings" such as those representing the West or religious sites, news reports said.
Additionally, the country became engulfed about the limits of free speech in a democracy. France is home to Western Europe's largest Muslim population.
France's prime minister, meanwhile, said freedom of speech was a guarantee but that it "should be exercised with responsibility and respect."
The cartoons are likely to extend a wave of violence tied to the posting of an online video in the U.S. which portrayed Mohammed as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester. Violence linked to that amateurish film, called "Innocence of Muslims," is blamed for at least 30 deaths around the world.
Charlie Hebdo's chief editor, who goes by the name of Charb and has been under police protection for a year, defended his decision to publish the cartoons.
"Muhammad isn't sacred to me," he said in an interview. "I don't blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law; I don't live under Quranic law."
© 2012 Newsroom America.