Cartoon, Film Spark Protest In Afghanistan

Associated Press
Thursday, March 6, 2008

KABUL, March 5 -- Hundreds of Afghan protesters burned the Dutch and Danish flags Wednesday and demanded that their troops leave Afghanistan in the latest outcry against the reprinting of a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad in Denmark and an upcoming Dutch film criticizing the Koran.

The United Nations, meanwhile, called for a peaceful dialogue to overcome the animosity caused by the cartoon and film.

More than 300 people gathered in central Logar province for a demonstration organized by students, deputy provincial police chief Abdul Majid Latifi said.

Protesters burned the Danish and Dutch flags and urged President Hamid Karzai to issue a statement of condemnation, said Mohammad Shafiq Popal, head of a Logar youth association.

Last month, in a gesture of solidarity, Denmark's leading newspapers reprinted a cartoon of Muhammad after Danish police said they had uncovered a plot to kill the artist, whose drawing helped spark deadly riots in 2006. The reprinting triggered further protests.

The Afghan protesters were also angered by an upcoming Dutch short film that reportedly portrays the Koran as a "fascist book."

Aleem Siddique, a U.N. official in Afghanistan, pressed for calm in resolving the misunderstanding.

Criticism of Muhammad and the Koran carries the death sentence in Afghanistan, a Muslim nation.

More than 200 Afghan lawmakers gathered Tuesday, urging the Danish and Dutch governments to stop blasphemy against Islam.

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