Blasphemous cartoons: Muslim anger boils over

Published: January 17, 2015
Demonstrators throw stones at riot police during a protest in Karachi. PHOTO AFP

Demonstrators throw stones at riot police during a protest in Karachi. PHOTO AFP


Tens of thousands of people rallied in different towns and cities of Pakistan on Friday as the seething anger fuelled by the publication of blasphemous cartoons by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo swept across the Muslim world.

The protests in Pakistan came a day after its parliament condemned the cartoons as a “deliberate attempt to incite violence, create discord, [and] widen misunderstandings among civilisations”.

The protest rallies remained largely peaceful except for Karachi, where more than a dozen people were injured during violent clashes between protesters and the police.

The clashes erupted when the police stopped the protesters belonging to the student wing of politico-religious Jamaat-e-Islami from marching towards the French Consulate. Over a dozen people – including AFP photojournalist Asif Hassan and four policemen – were wounded in the scuffle that lasted for more than an hour. Hassan, who received a gunshot wound, was rushed to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) where medics said he was in a stable condition.

Senior police official Abdul Khaliq Sheikh said the violence began when the protesters were prevented by the police from approaching the French Consulate. “When the police tried to stop them they started firing,” he said, adding that the police responded with tear gas and water cannon to disperse the protesters. The protesters denied the allegation and blamed the police for triggering the clash.

In Islamabad, security was tightened around the Diplomatic Enclave as hundreds of enraged people marched in different neighbourhoods. The administration had placed shipping containers near Murree Road to block access to the high-security zone. In the neighbouring garrison city of Rawalpindi, political parties and religious organisations organised demonstrations. The Jamaat-e-Islami and Muslim Students Organisation staged a rally from Moti Mosque to Fawara Chowk in Raja Bazaar. Participants shouted slogans against Charlie Hebdo and burnt tyres on the road.

Similar protests were staged elsewhere in Punjab, including Lahore, by the JI and Jamaatud Dawa (JuD).

Addressing the JI rally on Multan Road, Ameer Sirajul Haq announced to hold million-man marches in Lahore, Islamabad and Karachi next Friday. He urged Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to call an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders to lodge a protest against the French government. Demonstrations were also reported from across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. In Muzaffarabad, the capital of AJK, protesters marched from the Prime Minister Secretariat to Civil Secretariat shouting slogans against Charlie Hebdo. AJK Prime Minister Chaudhry Abdul Majeed said such type of ‘freedom of expression’ was a threat to world peace.

Apart from Pakistan, protest rallies were also staged in other Muslim countries, with the largest protests taking place in the capitals of Algeria and Jordan.

In Amman, around 2,500 protesters set off from Al-Husseini mosque under tight security, holding banners that read “insulting the Holy Prophet [PBUH) is global terrorism”.

In Algiers, 2,000-3,000 marchers chanted slogans against the French magazine, though some shouted their support for the Kouachi brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

Four people were killed and 45 injured in a day of violent protests in Niger’s second city.

Interior Minister Massaoudou Hassoumi said a policeman and three civilians died in Friday’s disturbances in Zinder in which three churches were ransacked and the French cultural centre was burned down.

Thousands of protesters gathered outside mosques after Friday prayers to vent anger at the French weekly. Twenty-two members of the security forces and 23 protesters were hurt in the ensuing clashes, national radio reported, as one Catholic and two Protestant churches were attacked.

Around 100 protesters rallied in Istanbul in response to a call by a group calling itself the Fraternal Platform of the Prophet (PBUH)’s Companions, with some holding pictures of the Kouachis.

A French flag was also set on fire outside the embassy in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, where 1,000 protesters rallied.

In Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al Aqsa mosque compound, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated peacefully.

In Khartoum, hundreds poured out of the Grand Mosque and marched across the adjacent square, chanting “Expel the French ambassador.”

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’.

Muslim governments also 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.” Charlie Hebdo’s latest cartoon is ‘disgraceful’ and no more than attempt to provoke Muslims and mock their beliefs, it said.

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

Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2015.

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Reader Comments (18)

  • wb
    Jan 17, 2015 - 3:12AM

    All types of emotions of Muslims suddenly spike up on Fridays.


  • woody
    Jan 17, 2015 - 4:33AM

    Nothing wrong with peaceful protest … not sure how angry people throwing rocks accomplishes anything. Pakistan is in desperate need of a Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi – they knew how to move mountains without violence.


  • Azi
    Jan 17, 2015 - 5:58AM

    Muslim anger boils over every possible thing.


  • Atheist
    Jan 17, 2015 - 6:27AM

    Medieval people who want to live in past. All religions should be banned.


  • Nael
    Jan 17, 2015 - 7:04AM

    Hypocrites of the highest order, there is no such thing as freedom of speech even in their own backyard. Only if all the Muslim countries could act in unison, they would dare not try these tricks. If standing for your beliefs is seen as clash of civilizations then be it and if it is about desensitizing the Muslims like Christians and Jews, then they are far from it. Muslim mind is wired differently and they will never understand this.


  • humble
    Jan 17, 2015 - 7:29AM

    Take a good look at that picture … anybody think “Religion of Peace” equates with that?


  • ajeet
    Jan 17, 2015 - 8:29AM

    Even in India, all communal riots start after Friday prayers in mosques.


  • Ashraf
    Jan 17, 2015 - 8:57AM

    Yep, the best way to protest is to destroy everything in you own land. Something is seriously wrong.


  • FaceTheTruth!
    Jan 17, 2015 - 9:21AM

    A life saver for the terrorists… all over the world. The shear timing couldn’t be better. An excellent opportunity for general public to learn and understand world politics first hand. See how terrorists saved their agenda and advertised for recruitment. How French…despite of knowing, they are being played… could not do anything. And so on and so fourth… The chain of beneficiaries don’t end. One must know GAME-OF-CHESS to know this!


  • Jan 17, 2015 - 11:51AM

    China banned Ramzan and bans Burqas, but lets concentrate on the French.

    It seems there is always a reason for Muslims to protest, to burn things, to destroy lives. to kill.

    Non-Muslims in Pakistan have much greater reason, but do they kill?


  • ali
    Jan 17, 2015 - 11:57AM

    Now I understand what those cartoonists are thinking when they try to insult these hypocrites. God bless them for taking on these hypocrites in such an artistic way.


  • tapioca
    Jan 17, 2015 - 11:58AM

    It’s Innocence of Muslim all over again. People go crazy and destroy properties actually made by their own tax money in order to protest against someone sitting in the other hemisphere of the globe..
    Its simply one step backward..


  • Yo2Da2
    Jan 17, 2015 - 1:02PM

    @ali: Perhaps only China’s mission will remain as other countries (including the West) would have pulled out their diplomatic missions for the sake of safety..A few years ago, Irfan Husain criticized such mob protests for being futile and for hurting local citizens and small businesses more than anything else. I think he should have also added that such incidents add to the perceptions about the country abroad.


  • Tufail
    Jan 17, 2015 - 1:34PM

    Such anger on meaningless cartoons…. and no demonstration by these people on APS 1 month anniversary??


  • Milind
    Jan 17, 2015 - 5:20PM

    The headline is misleading… it should be Pakistani anger boils over. All other Muslim countries are upset, but their anger doesn’t seem to have ‘boiled over’.. In fact the Saudi king expressed solidarity with those killed.

    @woody – None of the Muslim countries are ready to have Gandhi or Martin Luther king. Because the first step these men did was look into themselves and accept responsibility for (and work upon) their shortcomings, before advising anybody else – something which evades the Muslim world, right from day one.


  • NM
    Jan 17, 2015 - 9:19PM

    Where was this anger after over 130 children were massacred? When silly cartoons mean more to you than real human lives to you then you are doomed to failure as a people.


  • Jan 17, 2015 - 9:28PM

    Just tell these guys that France is offering free immigration visas then instead of throwing stones there will be long queues to obtain visas. Religion will be forgotten in no time. Hypocrites.


  • Adil
    Jan 17, 2015 - 11:09PM

    Best thing to do is to, ignore them, don’t read and don’t react. The circulation was at 30,000 and it was falling and since they could not add any value so they went into shock journalism. They may have been out of business and hence issue would have been dead. By conducting these protests, these agitators in West, gets more attention more publicity to these people and magazines and as a result they get more powerful. So lets be smart about this.


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