- The Washington Times - Monday, January 19, 2015

At least 10 people have died in protests and riots around the Islamic world, as demonstrations showed no signs of easing over the “survivor issue” of the French satiric weekly Charlie Hebdo that depicts the Prophet Muhammad on its cover.

The protests erupted just over a week after 12 people were killed in an attack by Islamist gunmen on the magazine’s Paris offices. The attack set off a global debate that is still smoldering over freedom of speech and respect for religious beliefs.

In Grozny, Russia, thousands of protesters marched through the predominantly Muslim Chechen capital to protest the newest Charlie Hebdo cartoons. As they marched, protesters carried posters that read “Hands off our beloved prophet” and “Europe has only united us.”

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov spoke Monday from a stage wearing a vest with “We Love Mohammed, we don’t love Charlie” written on it. Mr. Kadyrov wrote in a post on his Instagram account that those who defend Charlie Hebdo and its cartoons are his “personal enemies.” He also vowed that at least 1 million people would join the government-sponsored protests on the capital.

Similar protests, including violent demonstrations in Niger and Pakistan, erupted in other nations with large Muslim populations.

Flags flew at half-staff in Niger at the start of three days of mourning Monday for those who were killed and injured during riots since Friday in Niamey, the country’s capital. The violence left 10 people dead and 173 injured in both Niamey and Zinder.

The Niger government said at least 45 churches have been set on fire in the country as part of the protests.

Protesters in Pakistan burned the French flag and an effigy of President Francois Hollande during protests Sunday against the cartoons of the prophet. A Christian school and an orphanage were set afire and the French flag was burned, police spokesman Adily Toro told reporters. Mr. Toro said 189 people were arrested during the protests, in which demonstrators burned numerous businesses, including hotels and bars.

More peaceful protests were held in Iran, where hundreds of demonstrators Monday marched outside the French Embassy in Tehran. Some in the crowd of mostly students and young activists demanded that the French Embassy be closed and the ambassador expelled. They also torched U.S. and Israeli flags. State TV said similar gatherings were held in other Iranian cities.

Iran has condemned the Jan. 7 terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office. But the country also has criticized the satirical weekly’s “survivor issue,” which shows a drawing of a tearful Prophet Muhammad holding a sign saying, “Je suis Charlie.”

In Afghanistan, where deadly riots erupted against a series of Danish cartoons in 2006 that also caricatured the Prophet Muhammad, The Associated Press reported that several hundred Afghans burned the French flag as they chanted “Death to France” during a rally in the city of Jalalabad, the third straight day of demonstrations. The protesters — mostly young Afghan men — demanded that the French government apologize to Muslims.

As the crowds demonstrated, European Union leaders reached out to the Islamic world to improve ties and fight terrorist threats jointly.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini met Monday with Arab League Secretary General Nabil Al-Araby. She also attended a meeting of the EU foreign ministers who are preparing for an EU summit next month focused on terrorism.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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