Protesters from the Islamic Action Front and others hold a banner in support of the Prophet Mohammad, during a protest against satirical French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad as the cover of its first edition since an attack by Islamist gunmen, after the Friday prayer in Amman January 16, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)
Saudi Arabia's top clerical council, the only body in the kingdom authorised to issue Islamic legal opinions or fatwas, on Friday denounced the publication of "disrespectful drawings" of the Prophet Mohammad.
"Injuring the feelings of Muslims with these drawings ... will not achieve the right aim. It will serve extremists who are looking for justification for murder and terrorism," Fahad bin Saad al-Majid of the Council of Senior Scholars was quoted as saying in a statement carried on state news agency SPA.
French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's first edition after an attack on its Paris office by Islamist gunmen killed 12 people featured a cartoon of a weeping Prophet Mohammad on its cover.
Charlie Hebdo has published numerous cartoons mocking religious figures including Jesus, Pope Frances and the Prophet Mohammad.
Al Qaeda in Yemen claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was ordered by the Islamist militant group's leadership for insulting the Prophet.
While Muslim leaders around the world have strongly condemned the attack, many said the decision to print a new cartoon of Mohammad was a provocation that would create a backlash.
"It is the duty of the world to create mutual respect and constructive co-existence and that would not be by insulting religious sanctities and symbols," the council's statement said.
Riyadh issued an unqualified statement of condemnation of last week's attack but it did not strongly criticise the images and its ambassador took part in a solidarity march in which protesters carried the cartoons.
The kingdom is attempting to marshal conservative Muslims behind a campaign against Islamist militants in al Qaeda and Islamic State, but has stirred anger among many for what they see as its weak response to the cartoons.
Gulf Arab states Qatar and Bahrain have condemned Charlie Hebdo's cartoons as "offensive", state media reported on Friday.