By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, February 11, 2006
COPENHAGEN, Feb. 10 -- Tens of thousands of Muslims took to the streets across Asia, Africa and the Middle East after weekly prayers on Friday, burning Danish flags and shouting anti-Danish and anti-American slogans in a continuing convulsion of anger over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
Demonstrators marched in at least 13 countries -- Kenya, Iran, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Egypt, Israel and Jordan -- as the global wave of protests, spurred by a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons depicting Islam's holiest figure and the reprinting of those cartoons in newspapers in other countries, headed toward a second consecutive weekend.
The protesters defied calls for calm from several prominent Muslim leaders and organizations as well as a statement of regret from Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and an apology by editors of the newspaper that originally published the cartoons. "The government has done what can be done," Rasmussen said in an interview Thursday. "Neither the government nor the Danish people can be held responsible for what is published in an independent newspaper. And neither the government nor the Danish people have any intention whatsoever to insult Muslims or any other religious community."
In Kenya, police shot and wounded at least one protester Friday as they tried to protect the Danish ambassador's residence. Thousands of demonstrators shouting "Kill Danes! Down with Denmark!" marched from Nairobi's largest mosque following Friday prayers. Riot police fired on a group of at least 200 people who had tried to reach the home of the Danish envoy, Bo Jensen.
"We've certainly heard their message and hope they will go home," Jensen told the Reuters news agency.
In Pakistan, more than 5,000 people demonstrated peacefully in Islamabad in the largest rally in the country since the controversy began. Another 2,000 protesters fought with police in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, several thousand protesters marched from a mosque to the Danish Embassy, shouting, "Destroy Denmark! Destroy Israel! Destroy George Bush! Destroy America!" Others carried placards supporting an economic boycott that has almost halted Danish exports to the Middle East and North Africa.
Addressing a large crowd, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi described a "huge chasm that has emerged between the West and Islam," not simply because of the cartoons, he said, but because of Western policies regarding oil, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In India, thousands of angry Muslims kicked, spat on and tore Danish flags and burned effigies in the capital, New Delhi, and in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, the Associated Press reported. In Bangladesh, more than 5,000 Muslims marched on Denmark's embassy in the capital, Dhaka, shouting, "Death to those who degrade our beloved prophet!"
In the Middle East, about 2,000 women, young boys and older men marched around the Dome of the Rock shrine in Jerusalem chanting "Bin Laden, strike again!" Large crowds of protesters in Gaza fired gunshots into the air and burned Danish flags. Thousands clashed with police in Egypt.
About 2,000 Muslims marched in Jordan. Demonstrators in Tehran threw gasoline bombs at the French Embassy and shouted, "Death to France!" and, "Death to America!" Several French newspapers have reprinted some of the Danish cartoons.
The violence came despite calls for calm from Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, a senior cleric.
"I am calling on all religious men not to attack the embassies of the foreigners," Khatami told worshipers in Tehran in comments broadcast live on state radio. "Chanting slogans, staging protests and condemning such measures are holy . . . but I feel that they want their embassies to be set on fire so they can say that they are innocent. Take this excuse away from them."
In Sweden, the government shut down the Web site of a far-right political party's newspaper after it briefly posted a cartoon of Muhammad. It was the first time a Western government has intervened to block a publication in the controversy over the cartoons, the BBC reported.
Richard Jomshof, editor of the newspaper, SD-Kuriren, which is published by the anti-immigration Swedish Democrats, said the action was illegal. Jomshof's paper had posted a cartoon showing Muhammad from the rear, looking into a mirror with his eyes blacked out. He said the cartoon was about self-censorship, but Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds called it "a provocation" by "a small group of extremists."
In Copenhagen, Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, which originally published the cartoons on Sept. 30, was told to take a two-week vacation. "There is no disagreement whatsoever between me and the company," Rose said in an interview. "I'm tired, I have been under huge pressure, and I am grateful to the paper for this time off."
Rose said this week that he intended to print cartoons of Jesus Christ and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He said the idea was to show that his newspaper would direct satire against all religions. Rose also said he was considering printing cartoons about the Holocaust that an Iranian newspaper intended to publish.
The newspaper's editor in chief, Carsten Juste, later publicly contradicted those statements, and Rose agreed that they represented "an error in judgment."
In Norway on Friday, the editor of Magazinet, a Christian newspaper, apologized to Muslims for reprinting the cartoons, which had made Norway a target of Muslim attacks, including the burning of its embassy in Damascus, Syria. Vebjoern Selbekk, who had initially defended the Jan. 10 publication as an expression of press freedom, said at a news conference: "I address myself personally to the Muslim community to say that I am sorry that your religious feelings have been hurt. It was never our intent to hurt anyone." Selbekk, who said he had received more than 20 e-mailed death threats, then shook hands with Mohammed Hamdan, leader of the Islamic Council in Norway, who urged forgiveness and Selbekk's safety.
"Anyone who touches him touches us," Hamdan said. "Our prophet, Muhammad, has said that everyone can make mistakes, but the best is the one who expresses regret and asks for forgiveness."