From London to Jakarta, fury at Mohamed cartoons grows



By Donald Macintyre in Gaza City, Justin Huggler in
Delhi and Robert Verkaik 
Published: 04 February 2006 

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article343108.ece

Anger erupted across the Islamic world as crowds
emerging from mosques from Jakarta to Gaza yesterday
joined protests at cartoons hostile to the Prophet
Mohamed, which have been published in European
newspapers. 

Tens of thousands took to the streets in Gaza and the
West Bank in some of the biggest Palestinian
demonstrations in a decade. In Indonesia, the world's
largest Muslim nation, anger boiled over as up to 300
hardline Islamist activists went on the rampage in the
lobby of a Jakarta building housing the Danish
embassy.

Washington stepped into the row to condemn the
cartoons. But the United States has opened itself up
to the accusation that by inserting itself into the
controversy it is seeking to repair its own battered
image among Muslims.

"These cartoons are offensive to the belief of
Muslims," a State Department spokesman, Kurtis Cooper,
said. "We all fully recognise and respect freedom of
the press and expression but it must be coupled with
responsibility."

In Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf condemned the
cartoons. "I have been hurt, grieved and I am angry,"
he said, describing European papers reprinting the
cartoons as "vicious, outrageous and provocative". He
said the cartoons would escalate the "clash of
civilisations" between the West and the Islamic world,
and that the newspapers that printed them were
"oblivious of what is happening in the world".

In Gaza, Danish flags were burned after 10,000
protesters marched along the main Omar al-Muktar
Street to a rally organised by the Islamic group
Hamas, which won last week's Palestinian elections.
And while some imams urged restraint in their Friday
prayers, others were outspoken. At the Omari mosque in
Gaza City, 9,000 worshippers were told those behind
the cartoons should have their heads cut off. In the
West Bank city of Nablus, Imam Hassan Sharif said: "If
they want a war of religion, we are ready."

The clashes in Indonesia underlined Denmark's unwanted
role as a focal point for Muslim anger at perceived
Western blasphemy. Demonstrators outside the embassy
in Jakarta pelted the Danish coat of arms with eggs,
tore down the flag and set it on fire.

They pushed their way past security guards into the
building housing the embassy, but were stopped by
their leaders before they could reach the offices on
the 25th floor.

In Bangladesh, some 4,000 people demonstrated against
the cartoons in the capital, Dhaka, chanting:
"Apologise to Muslims." Many joined the protest after
Friday prayers at the city's main mosque.

"Put a brake on your so-called unlimited freedom of
expression, otherwise you will not be spared," Moulana
Kazi Morshed al-Haq, leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an
Islamic organisation, said at the otherwise peaceful
rally.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai said: "As much
as we condemn this, we must have, as Muslims, the
courage to forgive and to not make an issue of dispute
between religions or cultures."

But, although protests around Asia provided dramatic
pictures, they were small and restrained by local
standards.

At least 15 people were killed in anti-US riots in
Afghanistan after Newsweek reported US interrogators
at Guantanamo Bay had flushed a copy of the Koran down
a toilet - a report the magazine later retracted.

The largest gatherings on the so called "day of anger"
came in Gaza City, where bullets were fired into the
air as protesters chanted: "There is no God but God
and the Prophet is the messenger of God," and "We
sacrifice our blood and soul to you, Prophet of God."

Mushir al-Masri, a newly elected member of the PLC,
told the rally: "The victory for Hamas was a political
earthquake and the insult to the Prophet Mohamed was
another earthquake."

Yesterday one of the leading Christian Palestinian
clerics in Gaza, Father Manuel Mussallam, said that
"Mohamed is a high Arab personality".

He said that the Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar had met
him and Christian nuns on Thursday within an hour of
complaints about a statement issued by Fatah and
Islamic Jihad armed militants. These warned that
churches in Gaza, along with the EU office, would be
"bombarded" if plans for a Koran-burning protest in
Denmark went ahead.

He added: "We are not afraid of Hamas. We fear
fanatics and there are fanatics in all religions,
Christian, Muslim even Buddhist."

The global demonstrations against the cartoons spread
to Britain as hundreds of Muslims marched through
London protesting at what they see as a media attack
on Islam.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said: "There is
freedom of speech, we all respect that, but there is
not any obligation to insult or to be gratuitously
inflammatory. I believe that the republication of
these cartoons has been unnecessary, it has been
insensitive, it has been disrespectful and it has been
wrong."

Muslim leaders will today call on broadcasters and
newspapers to show restraint when they meet in
Birmingham.

A number of television broadcasters, including the
BBC, ITV News and Channel 4 News, chose to illustrate
their bulletins this week by showing how European
newspapers had used the newspaper images. 





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