Prophet's face blurred in French textbook

Paris, France - A French publisher said Thursday it had blurred the face of the Prophet Mohammed in painting reproduced in a history textbook after teachers warned it could spark protests by Muslim students.

The publisher Belin confirmed a report in the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, which said it had digitally masked the face of the prophet in a reproduction of a 13th-century miniature painting.

Charlie Hebdo, which was acquitted earlier this month on charges of insulting the Muslim religion for printing cartoons of the prophet, published the miniature in question in its latest issue.

Belin defended its decision to blur the image in a letter to several teachers who wrote to it to contest the move.

"After presenting our new schoolbook to your fellow history and geography teachers in a number of schools, several told us that such a presentation of the Prophet Mohammed would today be perceived as provocative..." the letter said.

Belin denied it had been "under pressure to blur the image" but said the teachers had warned of "the difficulty of teaching calmly in very heterogeneous classes," in a clear reference to Muslim students.

A spokeswoman for the SNES teaching union, Alive Cardoso, attacked the decision saying it was "injustifiable to manipulate a source" and was "contrary to the work of a historian."

A Paris court last month threw out a suit brought by two Muslim groups against Charlie Hebdo's editor for reprinting cartoons that had appeared in a Danish newspaper, sparking angry protests by Muslims worldwide in 2005.

The trial was seen as an important test for freedom of expression in France and French presidential candidates stepped in support of the weekly.