Tokyo-based publisher Daisan Shokan released a book Tuesday containing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad previously published in the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo.
About 500 bookstores nationwide have expressed interest in selling the book, titled “Islam Heito Ka, Fushi Ka” (“Anti-Islam Hate, or Satire?”), but will use discretion in deciding whether to stock it.
Others have said they will not stock it in response to opposition by Muslims in Japan.
Riot police from the Metropolitan Police Department were stationed around Daisan Shokan’s headquarters in Shinjuku Ward on Tuesday morning.
The 64-page book has an initial print run of 3,000 copies. It contains 48 satirical cartoons alongside comments by 10 cartoonists and researchers on Islam.
Daisan Shokan President Akira Kitagawa said the book is not intended as an insult to Islam.
“We want this book to add to the debate on the limits of free expression,” Kitagawa said.
He said the face of Muhammad is blurred in the cartoons in the book, in line with Muslim beliefs prohibiting visual depictions of the prophet.
But a Muslim organization maintained that printing the cartoons themselves is an affront to Islam.
Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office was attacked by Islamic militants on Jan. 7, leaving 12 people dead. The weekly’s first issue following the attack carried a cartoon of Muhammad on the cover.
In March last year, the Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings ordering Daisan Shokan to pay ¥35.2 million in damages to 16 Muslims living in Japan after it published a book based on leaked police documents linking the plaintiffs with terrorism.