ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Angry Muslims rallied in Pakistani cities and torched effigies of the Danish premier and his country’s flag Friday to protest against the publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed.
Emotional protesters marched through the streets after Friday congregations, demanding the government snap diplomatic relations with Denmark.
Witnesses said hundreds of university and college students, joined by political leaders and workers of religious parties held demonstrations at five different points in the eastern city of Lahore.
The protesters sprinkled petrol on an effigy of Danish Prime Minister wrapped in his country’s flag and set it alight amid chants of “Hang the cartoonist” and “Expel the Danish ambassador.”
“We condemn the reprinting of the blasphemous cartoons which hurt Muslim sentiments across the world. The Danish government has not taken this issue seriously,” cleric Mukhtar Ashraf told the rally.
Rallies were held across the central city of Multan, where angry Muslims also chanted slogans against Dutch filmmaker Geert Wilders for producing an anti-Koran film.
Around 1,000 people, including religious school students, marched in the southwestern city of Quetta, where former provincial health minister Hafiz Hamidullah said the cartoon was an attempt to incite Muslims to violence.
“If the West is not involved it should ban such publications and Muslim world should take a joint stand to foil such acts in future,” he added.
In the capital Islamabad, the leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, criticised the government for not taking the matter seriously as protesters burned the Danish flag and portraits of the Danish premier.
To Muslims, such drawings are blasphemous since Islam prohibits any images of the prophet.
Pakistan last month summoned the Danish envoy in Islamabad and lodged a “strong protest” over republication of the cartoon in Denmark.
Five people died in Pakistan in February 2006 during violent protests against the cartoons, while a Pakistani cleric offered a reward of one million dollars and a new car for anyone who killed any of the cartoonists.
At least 17 Danish dailies reprinted a drawing last month, vowing to defend freedom of expression a day after police in Denmark foiled a plot to murder the cartoonist.