Protesters rally against blasphemous cartoons
ISLAMABAD: Demonstrations were held in all the country’s main cities on Friday to protest against the republication in Danish newspapers of a cartoon caricaturing the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him), which caused outrage across the Islamic world two years ago, Reuters reported.
Angry protesters torched effigies of the Danish premier and his countryÂ’s flag. They marched through streets across the country after Friday prayers, demanding the government snap diplomatic relations with Denmark, AFP adds.
The cartoon, one of 12 that prompted riots in many Muslim countries in 2006, was republished by a number of Danish papers – at least 17, according to AFP – last month to show solidarity with the cartoonist after three men were arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill him, said Reuters.
Rallies were held in Karachi, Islamabad, Lahore, Multan and Quetta, where speakers demanded that the “blasphemers” be punished and Danish products be boycotted.
In Islamabad, Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed criticised the government for not taking the matter, AFP reported.
In Lahore, at five different points, hundreds of university and college students, joined by political leaders and workers of religious parties, held demonstrations, witnesses said.
The protesters sprinkled petrol on an effigy of the Danish prime minister wrapped in his country’s flag and set it alight amid chants of “Hang the cartoonist” and “Expel the Danish ambassador”.
“We condemn the reprinting of the blasphemous cartoons which hurt Muslim sentiments across the world. The Danish government has not taken this issue seriously,” cleric Mukhtar Ashraf told the rally.
In Karachi, a strike call was issued by various religious and political groups, and endorsed by the business community in Karachi. Shops closed and public transport was sparse, but banks and most offices remained open.
“By observing this strike, the trader community has expressed its deep anger and dislike of those who committed blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad [Peace Be Upon Him],” said Atiq Mir, chairman of the Alliance of Market Associations Karachi.
In Multan, angry protesters also chanted slogans against Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders for producing an anti-Islam film, Reuters said.
“We demand the Danish authorities punish the blasphemers, or we will take revenge ourselves,” an Islamist leader, Mufti Hidayatullah, told some 400 students in Multan, according to AFP.
In Quetta, around 1,000 people, including religious school students, took to the streets. Addressing a demonstration, former provincial health minister Hafiz Hamidullah said the cartoon was an attempt to incite Muslims to violence.
“If the West is not involved, it should ban such publications and the Muslim world should take a joint stand to foil such acts in future,” he added.
Last month, the Danish envoy in Islamabad was asked to the Foreign Office, where Pakistani officials lodged a “strong protest” over the republication of the cartoon in Denmark. At least 50 people were killed, including five in Pakistan, in the violence that rocked Muslim countries in 2006, as protests over the cartoons, first published in late 2005, turned violent, Reuters adds.
Source: Daily Times