A French magazine is publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a move that is likely to inflame outrage among Muslims who have been protesting against an anti-Islamic film.
The latest edition of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo is hitting news stands today against a background of protests over the crudely made American film that mocks Mohammed.
The magazine has not revealed what the cartoons will show, but its editor said they would "shock those who will want to be shocked".
French newspaper Le Monde said the images show the prophet in "particularly explicit poses". Many Muslims are strictly against Mohammed being depicted visually in any way.
At least 30 people have died so far in demonstrations against the Innocence of Muslims film held in more than 20 countries.
The last time Charlie Hebdo stoked controversy over Islamic issues, its Paris offices were fire-bombed.
That attack last year was blamed on an edition "guest-edited" by the Prophet Mohammed that it called Sharia Hebdo.
Charlie Hebdo's latest move was greeted with immediate calls from political and religious leaders for the media to act responsibly and avoid inflaming the current situation.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault issued a statement expressing his "disapproval of all excesses".
The magazine's editor, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, denied he was being deliberately provocative.
"The freedom of the press, is that a provocation?" he said. "I'm not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn't go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe."
Dalil Boubakeur, senior cleric at Paris's biggest mosque, called on France's four million Muslims to remain calm.
"It is with astonishment, sadness and concern that I have learned that this publication is risking increasing the current outrage across the Muslim world," he said.
"I would appeal to them not to pour oil on the fire."
France's Muslim Council also appealed for calm.
Even before news of Charlie Hebdo's plans emerged, French Muslims were being urged to take to the streets in defiance of an official ban on demonstrations over the controversial film.
Messages on social networking sites called for demonstrations to be held Saturday in Paris, Marseille and other major cities.
France's Muslim community, most of whom have family links to north Africa, is the largest in western Europe.