- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2006

New, reprinteddepictions ofMuhammadanger Muslims

KABUL, Afghanistan — Four persons were killed in Afghanistan yesterday in fresh protests against cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, while demonstrations continued in Iran, Indonesia and other Islamic nations.

The deaths in the town of Qalat, in the southern province of Zabul, brought the total number of Afghans killed in protests this week to 11, the most in any country. Twenty were injured in yesterday’s clash.

Tens of thousands of Muslims have demonstrated in the Middle East, Asia and Africa over the cartoons, first published in Denmark, then Norway and several other European countries.

The caricatures, including one showing the prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban, have infuriated many Muslims who consider any portrayal of their prophet as blasphemous, let alone one showing him as a terrorist.

Afghan police at first fired into the air to disperse about 600 protesters in Qalat after they threw stones, said Nasim Mullahkhel, the local police chief. Police fired on the crowd only when protesters tried to attack a nearby U.S. military base.

In France, the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo reprinted the cartoons of Muhammad yesterday and published one of its own, further angering Muslim groups.

Ignoring French President Jacques Chirac’s plea for moderation, the weekly’s front page carried the new cartoon showing Muhammad with his face buried in his hands, saying: “It’s hard to be loved by fools.”

Separately, the Danish newspaper that published the original cartoons said it had decided not to publish cartoons mocking the Holocaust that an Iranian newspaper is commissioning in response to the Muhammad caricatures. An editor at the paper had said earlier that the paper was willing to reprint the drawings.

Moderate Muslims, while condemning the cartoons, have expressed fears that radicals are hijacking debate over the boundary between press freedom and respect for religious beliefs.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with large Sunni Muslim populations, have not seen violent protests.

Officials in the United States and European Union think much of the violence against Western diplomatic missions in Syria, Lebanon, Iran and the Palestinian territories has not been spontaneous but instigated by governments or political groups for their own ends.

“Anyone who knows Syria knows that people don’t just go downtown and demonstrate without some official nod or wink,” one EU official said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana plans to travel to Arab and Muslim countries in an attempt to calm anger over the publication of the cartoons in Europe.

In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, government officials and religious leaders urged calm after Denmark told its citizens to leave for their own safety.

Muslims burned the flag of Italy and called for the boycott of EU goods in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, international monitors briefly withdrew after Palestinian protesters attacked their headquarters.

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