Sat, Feb 11, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Cartoon protests continue to rage across Asia

AGENCIES , KUALA LUMPUR AND COPENHAGEN

Muslim men tear a Danish flag after prayers outside Jama Masjid, the most important mosque in India, in New Delhi yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Muslims across Asia vented their anger yesterday over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed as a leading politician blamed Western nations for a "huge chasm" between the West and Islam.

The protests over the drawings first published in a Danish newspaper showed no sign of easing, but there was no repeat of the deadly violence that has so far left 13 people dead worldwide in rallies against the cartoons.

In Malaysia, where Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was hosting an international conference on Islam, between 2,000 and 3,000 protesters marched on the Danish embassy chanting "God is great!"

"There is definitely something rotten in the state of Denmark," said Hatta Ramli from the opposition Pan-Malaysia Islamic party.

Abdullah told Muslim leaders and academics that Western nations wanted to control the world's oil and gas, and blamed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the establishment of Israel, for a rift with the West.

"They think Osama bin Laden speaks for the religion and its followers. Islam and Muslims are linked to all that is negative and backward," Abdullah said.

"The demonization of Islam and the vilification of Muslims, there is no denying, is widespread within mainstream Western society," he said, adding that there was a "huge chasm that has emerged between the West and Islam."

Meanwhile nearly 20,000 people took to the streets to protest the cartoons in Bangladesh, where Prime Minister Khaleda Zia called for an apology for the "extremely arrogant" drawings.

"We have firm faith in freedom of speech ... but all should remain conscious about their responsibility so this freedom does not hurt anyone's sentiment, faith [and] dignity," she said.

Some 4,000 demonstrators took to the streets of the Pakistani capital Islamabad, marching from a mosque in the center of the city to the main Abpara commercial center under heavy police surveillance.

"Crush Denmark, crush America," the protesters chanted as they torched an effigy of US President George W. Bush.

One protester was injured in another demonstration in the northwestern city of Peshawar when he was hit by a teargas shell, and smaller rallies were held in the cities of Karachi, Lahore, Quetta and Multan.

In neighboring India, thousands of Muslims shouting "Denmark Die, Die!" burnt Danish flags in the streets of New Delhi after prayers at the country's largest mosque. Protesters spat on giant Danish flags which were spread on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Jyllands-Posten editor who commissioned cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed has been sent on holiday after suggesting he would print Iranian cartoons of the Holocaust.

"The editors have told Flemming Rose to take a vacation because no one can understand the kind of pressure he has been under," Jyllands-Posten editor Carsten Juste told the Berlingske Tidende newspaper.

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