16 die in cartoon protests in Nigeria; Churches burned

Italian minister resigns; his T-shirt blamed for inciting riot

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) — Sixteen people were killed and 11 churches were burned Saturday in Nigeria as part of the continuing violence over cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed.

The violence comes a day after at least 10 people were killed in Libya and another in Pakistan, where five deaths have been reported this week.

Demonstrations and skirmishes broke out Saturday in the Muslim-dominated northern Nigerian cities of Maiduguri and Katsina. The cities also have significant Christian populations.

Maiduguri bore the brunt of Saturday’s violence. Fifteen people were killed, 11 churches were burned and 115 people were arrested there, a national police spokesman said. There also were reports of attacks on businesses owned by Christians.

In Katsina, one person was killed, two police officers were injured and 25 were arrested, a police spokesman said.

The Nigerian army was en route to the region late Saturday to assist police in keeping the peace, and the northern Nigerian state of Borno was considering imposing a curfew.

A Danish newspaper first published the cartoons in September, but protests over the caricatures — one of which depicts the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb — have escalated in recent weeks after several other publications, mostly European, reprinted the drawings. Muslims consider depictions of Mohammed blasphemous.

Italian minister resigns

Though demonstrations on the continent have been commonplace in recent weeks, Friday’s demonstrations in Libya brought the first reports of widespread violence in Africa.

What Muslims Should Be Outraged Over:

Protesters torched the Italian consulate in the port city of Benghazi, Libya’s second-largest city.

“It was peaceful, then it became violent,” said Francesco Trupiano, Italy’s ambassador to Libya.

Though Trupiano speculated that the consulate was targeted because it was the only Western consulate in Benghazi, many of the protesters said they were angry because Italian Reforms Minister Roberto Calderoli recently flaunted a T-shirt displaying one of the controversial cartoons on Italian state TV this week.

Calderoli stepped down from his post Saturday under mounting pressure, including from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who asked him to resign.

Violence escalates in Pakistan

In an attempt to stem the violence that already has led to five deaths in Pakistan this week, the government arrested leaders of the country’s religious six-party alliance and some 200 other members of the right-wing Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, or MMA.

The MMA had planned to march on the capital, Islamabad, on Sunday to protest the cartoon, but the Pakistani government is sealing off the city to buses and vans as a precaution.

As the sun was rising Sunday, police and paramilitary forces raided the homes of the MMA’S top two leaders and detained them, police sources said. Officials now are concerned that MMA supporters could clash with police over the detentions.

Violent protests have rumbled through cities across Pakistan in the past five days. Pakistan announced Saturday it would not permit the march to take place.

Peaceful protests in London

An angry but peaceful protest in the British capital Saturday drew more than 15,000 people to Trafalgar Square. They prayed before marching through Hyde Park. Many carried placards.

“Europe lacks respect for others,” stated one placard. “Don’t they teach manners in Denmark?” asked another.


This article cites a placard seen at the London protest, stating, “Don’t they teach manners in Denmark?” Come again? You don’t see the Danish people riot, attack and burn properties, issue calls for murder, call for the punishment of people who dare speak their minds, issue death threats, and so on. Don’t they teach manners to Muslims?

There were no arrests or reports of violence.

Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for the Muslim Action Committee, said the protests are sparked by the Muslim people’s reverence for the prophet.

“So when he is demonized, the young and old are deeply affected,” Mustafa said. “As long as the abuse is ongoing we will continue to rise up in protest.”

The general anger over the cartoons was stoked when several newspapers reprinted the cartoons and by Calderoli revealing the T-shirt on television, he said.

Mustafa added that the cartoons were reminiscent of attacks on Jews in European publications in the 1930s.

“Now there is a demonization of the Muslim community, so we have to speak up to prevent something like the Holocaust from happening,” he said.

Journalist Christian Purefoy and CNN’s Syed Mohsin Naqvi contributed to this report.

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Feb. 18, 2006

Religion News Blog posted this on Sunday February 19, 2006.
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