Hundreds of Afghans protest prophet cartoons
At least seven hundred people, including religious scholars, took to the streets on Sunday in northern Afghanistan to protest the reprint in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad and the upcoming film in Netherlands criticising Islam's holy book.
3 March 2008
AMSTERDAM - The demonstration was held in Mazar-e-Shari, the capital city of northern Balkh province on Sunday morning. The mob gathered around the city's biggest mosque and shrine, and burned Dutch and Danish flags, chanting slogans against "enemies of Islam."
"In our resolution today that was approved by all the participants, we asked our government to expel both the Dutch and Danish embassies from Afghanistan and stop any diplomatic relations with the two countries," said Qari Ahmad Khan, one of the organisers of the demonstration.
"We also want the Dutch and Danish soldiers to leave Afghanistan, if they disrespect our religion, we don't need them in Afghanistan," Payenda Mohammad, another protester said.
"If the government doesn't react, we will announce Jihad (holy war) against them (Danish and Dutch) and we will expel them ourselves," Mohammad said.
There are over 1,600 Dutch soldiers in the volatile southern province of Uruzgan, while nearly 800 Danish soldiers are, with most of them stationed in neighbouring Helmand province, where the Taliban-led insurgency is the most active.
Dozens of police were also deployed to control the mob, Shir Jan Durani, spokesman for provincial police chief said, adding that "it was a very peaceful demonstration, and it lasted for two hours this morning."
"Although the protesters got emotional at the end and were about to turn violent, but the police managed to disperse the mob at the right time," Durani said.
The first publication of the Prophet Mohammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper in 2006 sparked widespread condemnations and demonstrations throughout the Islamic world. Several people were killed in bloody demonstrations in Afghanistan, after the Afghan police opened fire at protesters.
The reproduction of the cartoons by a Danish leading newspaper after the Danish police said that they had found out that there was a plot to kill the artist, triggered another round of condemnation.
The protesters were also criticising a short film reportedly to be portrayed by a Dutch lawmaker that calls the Koran a "fascist book."
Afghanistan is a conservative Islamic country that regards disrespect to the Prophet and the Koran as blasphemy, the punishment of which is death.
[Copyright DPA 2008]