Asian Muslims Hold Biggest Rallies Yet

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — Tens of thousands of Muslims demonstrated against drawings of the Prophet Muhammed after Friday prayers around the world and Iranian youths rioted outside the French Embassy in Tehran despite calls for calm by governments and religious leaders.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, meanwhile, warned of a “huge chasm that has emerged between the West and Islam,” particularly because of Muslim frustrations at Western policies toward Iraq, Afghanistan and the Palestinians.

While many of the demonstrations were peaceful, up to 60 young men and women hurled stones, firecrackers and firebombs at the French Embassy in the Iranian capital, smashing almost every window on its street facade and starting a small fire near the gate.

“Down! Down with France! Down! Down with Israel,” the crowd chanted. More than 100 policemen deployed around the embassy and officers used loudspeakers to urge the protesters to disperse.

Police in Kenya shot and injured one person while trying to keep hundreds of protesters from marching to the residence of Denmark’s ambassador. Demonstrators also clashed with police in Pakistan and Egypt.

Rallies in Asia were the largest on the continent since protests erupted throughout the Muslim world over the drawings first published in a Danish newspaper in September and recently reprinted in other European publications. One depicted the prophet with a turban shaped like a bomb with a burning fuse.

Some Muslim leaders in the Middle East, including Kuwait’s parliament and Iraq’s top Shiite politician, have appealed for calm, saying violence is unhelpful and unnecessary. No major demonstrations were held in Mideast and North African cities Thursday.

But rallies erupted again on Friday. In Pakistan, protesters burned Danish cheese while others clashed with police. The largest gathering was in the capital, Islamabad, where 5,000 supporters of radical Islamic groups demonstrated peacefully in the center of the capital.

Thousands also demonstrated in Malaysia, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, while smaller rallies were held in Indonesia and the Philippines. Some protested outside mosques while others marched on Danish diplomatic missions.

In Egypt, some protesters clashed with police who tried to disperse them with water canons and tear gas. Thousands of Palestinians in Gaza rallied, some firing rifles in the air and others burning Danish flags. About 2,000 Muslim worshippers marched in Jordan under tight security.

The editor of a small Christian newspaper in Norway — the second to publish the drawings, on Jan. 10 — apologized Friday for offending Muslims. Magazinet editor Vebjoern Selbekk said he failed to foresee the pain and anger the drawings would cause.

Many Muslims considered the caricatures offensive to Islam, which is interpreted to bar images of the revered prophet. The Danish newspaper that first published the drawings has apologized for offending Muslims but the Danish government has said it cannot apologize for something done by its free press.

In Pakistan, Mian Aslam, a leader of a coalition of Islamic groups, delivered a fiery speech urging Pakistan to sever ties with any country where the drawings were published. The turnout in Islamabad was the biggest in Pakistan since protests against the cartoons began about a week ago.

About 2,000 protesters briefly clashed with police in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, where they burned foreign-made dairy products. The crowd attacked shops before they were charged by police. At least half a dozen small protests were held around the southern city of Karachi.

In Kenya, thousands of demonstrators, shouting “Down with Denmark!” marched from the largest mosque in downtown Nairobi to Kenya’s foreign ministry, to deliver a protest note. At least 200 demonstrators tried to go the home of the Danish envoy, triggering clashes with anti-riot police in which one person was injured.

Israeli police in Jerusalem unsuccessfully tried to prevent protests by barring all men under the age of 45 from attending Friday prayers at the Al Aqsa mosque compound in the Old City, Islam’s third-holiest site. Despite the efforts, about 2,000 women, young boys and older men marched around the Dome of the Rock shrine on the compound, chanting “Bin Laden, strike again.”

In Malaysia’s largest city, Kuala Lumpur, about 3,000 protesters marched from a mosque to the high rise building housing the Danish Embassy shouting: “Long live Islam. Destroy Denmark. Destroy Israel. Destroy George Bush. Destroy America!”

Meanwhile, a U.S. official praised Indonesia and Malaysia for their handling of the controversy, saying the two countries proved that Islam and democracy were compatible.

“The protests dissipated fairly quickly and there was a public discussion of it,” said Eric John, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

Small demonstrations were also held in Indonesia, where protesters burned tires in one town.

Denmark earlier this week advised its citizens to leave Indonesia after its embassy was stormed by a mob and pelted with eggs.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Friday he considered the violent reactions to the cartoons “are completely disproportionate to the offense that could possibly have been given.”

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
AP, via, USA
Feb. 10, 2006
Munir Ahmah, Associated Press Writer

Religion News Blog posted this on Saturday February 11, 2006.
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