Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has issued a presidential decree giving the country’s prime minister the power to ban any foreign publication that is deemed “offensive to religion.” The decree was published Tuesday as Egypt’s most prominent Islamic institutions criticized the decision of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo to continue publishing cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, reported Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram.
According to the decree, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab will have the power to implement two new amendments to the country’s publications law, according to Al-Ahram. The first article stipulates that “to maintain order in the society, publications issued abroad can be banned in Egypt by an order from the cabinet to ban its republish and [dissemination] in the country.” The second article stipulates that “the cabinet has the right to ban publications offensive to religion or publications promoting erotica in a way that can disturb the public peace.”
Egypt’s religious institutions have expressed their concerns ahead of the publication of Charlie Hebdo’s newest issue Wednesday. The country’s official religious edict authority, known as Dar al-Ifta, said that the magazine was "unnecessarily provoking the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide who love and respect the Prophet," according to NBC. The influential body’s edicts are followed by millions of Muslims in Egypt, the largest Muslim country in the Arab world.
The Grand Mufti of Egypt also warned the magazine against publishing a new caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, saying it was a racist act that would incite hatred from Muslims around the world. "This edition will cause a new wave of hatred in French and Western society in general and what the magazine is doing does not serve coexistence or a dialogue between civilizations," the office of Grand Mufti Shawki Allam said in a statement reported by Reuters.
The new edition of Charlie Hebdo was released Wednesday, a week after Islamist gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on its Paris office. Demand for the magazine, which features a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad with a placard reading “Je Suis Charlie” on the cover, has been extremely high with its editors expanding its usual print run of 60,000 up to 3 million and vendors reporting it selling out in minutes.