Tunisia’s ruling party says Muslims have “the right to protest” against the publication in France of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammed as long as they do so peacefully.

“Ennahda backs the right of Muslims to protest and calls on the use of peaceful and civilized means,” the Islamist party that leads the governing coalition in Tunis said in a statement.

It branded French weekly Charlie Hebdo’s publication of cartoons of Mohammed, one portraying him naked, as “a new attack against the Prophet.”

It said the caricatures, which came hot on the heels of a US-produced low-budget movie that mocks Islam, were an attempt to “derail the Arab Spring and push it into conflict with the West.”

It said that was a “trap” that the Arab world should “not fall into.”

France’s interior ministry has banned all protests over the controversial film following a violent demonstration last weekend near the US embassy.

Tunisia was the cradle of the Arab Spring uprisings that ousted a string of veteran dictators across the region last year.

But in recent weeks, the country has seen a spate of disturbances by Islamist hardliners of the Salafist movement that have escalated in the face of the US-produced movie Innocence of Muslims.

Last Friday, the US embassy and adjacent American School in Tunis came under attack sparking clashes in which four people were killed and dozens injured.

Earlier on Wednesday, the French embassy in Tunis announced that French schools in the North African nation will be closed from Wednesday until Monday, adding that it had requested extra security following the publication of the cartoons.

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