Update | Protests against Charlie Hebdo cartoon turn violent as Muslims from Niger to Pakistan vent fury
Angry reaction across the Muslim world as believers burn burn French flags and clash with security forces in protest against new cartoons printed of the Prophet Mohammed
Police on Saturday fired tear gas at a fresh demonstration in Niger against French weekly Charlie Hebdo’s publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed, as thousands of Muslims demonstrated in cities across the world, resulting in a few deaths.
At least 1,000 youths assembled at the grand mosque in the capital Niamey, some of them throwing rocks at police while others burned tyres and chanted ”Allahu Akbar” (”God is Greatest”).
Four people were killed and 45 injured in protests in Niger’s second city of Zinder that turned violent, with demonstrators ransacking three churches and torching the French cultural centre.
A doctor in the city’s hospital told reporters that all of the dead and three of the injured had gunshot wounds.
“We’ve never seen that in living memory in Zinder,” a local administration official said. “It’s a black Friday.”
In Dakar, the capital of Senegal, police fired tear gas grenades to disperse about 1,000 protesters who chanted “Allahu Akbar” and torched a French flag.
While in Khartoum, hundreds poured out of the Grand Mosque and marched across the adjacent square, chanting “Expel the French ambassador. Victory to the Prophet of God!”
Protest graffiti was sprayed outside the French cultural centre in Gaza before dawn today following the publication of the cartoon.
“You will go to hell, French journalists,” read one of the slogans daubed on the walls of the cultural centre compound, which has been closed since it was damaged in a fire last October. “Anything but the prophet,” read another.
Police were deployed outside the compound’s main gate as well as on the adjacent main road/
The cover cartoon of Mohammed carried by Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, in its first edition since an attack on its Paris offices claimed by Al-Qaeda killed 12 people on January 7, has sparked angry protests across the Muslim world. Most Muslims regard any depiction of the prophet as sacrilege.
Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated quietly in Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, some with banners reading “Islam is a religion of peace!”
There was also bloodshed in Karachi, Pakistan, where three people were injured when protesters clashed with police outside the French consulate, officials said. Among them was an Agence France-Presse photographer, who was shot in the back.
Washington condemned the violence, stressing the “universal” right of the press to freely publish any kind of information.
“No act of legitimate journalism, however offensive some might find it, justifies an act of violence,” said State Department spokesman Jeffrey Rathke.
The latest issue of features a cartoon of Mohammed on its cover holding a “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) sign under the headline “All is forgiven”.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, protesters in Peshawar and Multan burnt French flags on the streets, while rallies were also held in Islamabad and Lahore.
Distributor MLP said the weekly had sold 1.9 million copies so far, with a total of five million to be printed, compared with its usual sales of around 60,000.
Brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi had gunned down 12 people in an attack on the magazine’s Paris offices on January 7 over such cartoons.
On the Muslim weekly day of prayers, thousands flooded the streets of Bamako in response to calls by leading clerics and Mali’s main Islamic body, chanting “Hands off my prophet” and “I am Muslim and I love my prophet”.
Jordan, Lebanon, Iran
In Jordan’s Amman, around 2,500 protesters set off from Al-Husseini mosque under tight security, holding banners that read “insulting the prophet is global terrorism”.
There were clashes between protesters and riot police in Algiers, where up to 3,000 marchers chanted “We are all Mohammed”, though some shouted their support for the Islamist Kouachi brothers.
AFP photographer Asif Hassan, a policeman and a local TV cameraman were injured in Karachi when clashes broke out there between police and protesters.
A police official said the violence began when authorities prevented some 350 protesters from approaching the French consulate in the sprawling metropolis.
In Lebanon’s flashpoint city of Tripoli, 70 people marched with banners bearing the name of the prophet and chanting.
Prayer leader Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahimi addressed hundreds of worshippers in Baddawi, on the outskirts of the city, saying: “May God punish this newspaper and those who back it”.
Protests also erupted in areas of conflict-hit Syria held by rebels and jihadists with demonstrators demanding “respect for religions”, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A protest in Tehran was cancelled, with no official reason given, as senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani told worshippers the cartoon’s publication amounted to “savagery”.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz addressed the marchers, condemning the controversial cartoon as “an attack on our religion and on all religions”.
Qatar and Bahrain
As protesters in Dakar and Mauritania torched French flags, Qatar and Bahrain warned that the new Prophet Mohammed cartoon published on Wednesday by the French satirical weekly could fuel religious hatred.
Muslim governments joined the chorus of condemnation of the cartoon.
Qatar branded as “offensive” the drawing, which was reprinted by several European papers in a show of solidarity with the victims of last week’s attack.
“These disgraceful actions are in the interest of nobody and will only fuel hatred and anger,” the foreign ministry warned.
Bahrain’s foreign ministry echoed that, saying publication of such cartoons “will create fertile ground for the spread of hatred and terrorism”.
The latest cartoon is “disgraceful” and no more than attempt to provoke Muslims and mock their beliefs, it said.
Qatar and Bahrain had sent representatives to a massive march in Paris last Sunday in support of free speech, alongside French President Francois Hollande and many other world leaders, including Muslims.
Around 15,000 people rallied in Russia’s Muslim North Caucasus region of Ingushetia against Western publications that insult the Prophet.
The crowd gathered for the officially sanctioned meeting in the regional capital Magas to protest “against cartoons of the prophet, Islamaphobia and insulting the beliefs of Muslims”, the local government’s press service said.
Regional head Yunus-Bek Yevkurov described the publication of caricatures of the Prophet as “state extremism on the side of several Western countries” in a statement addressed to the protest.
Russia’s media watchdog on Friday warned publications that printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was against the country’s law and ethical norms.
Media and communications ombudsman Roskomnadzor said that publishing the caricatures could be qualified as “inciting ethnic and religious hatred” and punished under anti-extremism laws.
Many newspapers and magazines around the world reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed by Charlie Hebdo.
Although Russia’s leadership extended its condolences to France, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov participated in the unity march staged at the weekend, pro-Kremlin commentators and Muslims accused the cartoonists of provoking the attack.
Another rally against the cartoons was due to be held on Monday in the neighbouring region of Chechnya.
Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov said those who drew Mohammed cartoons were ”people without spiritual and moral values” and pledged that 500,000 people would participate in the rally.