Arab world protests against depiction of Prophet Mohammed as a caricature


(AFP) – Muslims marched in Middle East cities today to protest the publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed by French magazine Charlie Hebdo, as Qatar warned the image would “fuel hatred”.

The largest rally was in Jordan, where around 2,500 protesters took to the streets of the capital Amman amid tightened security, while demonstrations also took place in east Jerusalem and Khartoum.

The crowd, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood and youth groups, set off from the Al-Husseini mosque in central Amman holding banners that read “insulting the prophet is global terrorism”.

The new issue of Charlie Hebdo, published on Wednesday, features a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed on its cover holding a “Je Suis Charlie” sign under the headline “All is forgiven”.

It was the first edition of the satirical magazine to be published since Islamist gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on its Paris offices on January 7.

The image has angered many Muslims as depictions of Mohammed are considered forbidden in Islam.

Qatar condemned what it called the “offensive” cartoon, which was also 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, describing them as a “violation of human values of peaceful coexistence, tolerance, justice, and respect among people.”

‘Religion of peace’

Jordan’s opposition Islamic Action Front party, the political wing of the local branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, has branded the publication of the cartoon as “an attack on Muslims across the world”.

King Abdullah II, who last weekend joined world leaders on an anti-terror solidarity march in Paris, yesterday said the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo was “irresponsible and reckless”.

Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated at Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound today, some with banners reading “Islam is a religion of peace!” and “Our leader will forever be Mohammed”.

Israeli security forces, which control access to the compound—the focal point of months of Jewish-Muslim tensions in the Holy Land—said Friday prayer passed off without incident, and there were no initial reports of violence linked to the demonstration afterwards.

In Sudan, several hundred demonstrators poured out of Khartoum’s Grand Mosque and marched across the adjacent square, chanting “Expel the French ambassador, victory to the Prophet of God!”, an AFP correspondent said.

One banner in Arabic said: “The French government should apologise and the French government must stop insults to religious figures”.

A protest against the cartoon in Tehran was cancelled, with no official reason given, as senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani told worshippers its publication amounted to “savagery”.

In Tunis, worshippers at El-Fath mosque interrupted prayer leader Noureddine Khadmi as he delivered a sermon saying: “We are all against insults made against our prophet but it is not a reason to kill”.

Charlie Hebdo journalists “deserved to be killed because they insulted our prophet many times,” the worshippers cried out.

Saudi Arabia’s top religious body, the Council of Senior Ulema, also criticised the publication of Mohammed cartoons that it said “have nothing to do with the freedom of creativity or thought”.

Its secretary general Fahd al-Majid warned that publishing such images would only “serve extremists who are in search of excuses for killing and terrorism”.