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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 February 2006, 08:29 GMT
Reaction around the world to cartoon row

As protests continue over the publication of newspaper cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, BBC correspondents around the world report on the reaction to the images where they are.

RAMALLAH, Martin Patience

In the West Bank city of Ramallah, residents appear angry about the cartoons originally published in a Danish newspaper, but reluctant to vent their anger on the streets.

Samir Zaghir, 30, an employee of the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says the cartoons are offensive to many Arabs and Muslims.

"Have you ever see any Muslim write about Jesus in this way?" he asks.

Khalil Ansara, a Palestinian Christian, says that people in Ramallah accept that religion cannot be criticised publicly.

"Think about Christianity two hundred years ago in Europe and there was no freedom of expression," says the 38-year-old lawyer.

"Freedom of expression does not apply to religion in Palestine but in terms of politics we can talk about anything."

PAKISTAN, Aamer Ahmed Khan

Protests in Pakistan against the controversial cartoons have so far remained muted but the debate is just beginning to pick up.

Hundreds of religious activists have marched in Karachi to protest against the cartoons.

The protesters demanded that the French and Norwegian ambassadors in Pakistan be declared personae non gratae and also criticised the government for its "criminal silence" on the issue.

Over the last two days, similar demonstrations have been held in Lahore and Multan.

The cartoons have been condemned by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who said they could not be defended as freedom of speech.

The situation remains volatile as the controversy has erupted at the start of the Muslim mourning festival of Moharram - a period of highly volatile religious sentiments.

FRANCE, Caroline Wyatt

The reaction by French Muslims has been relatively muted.

Official spokesmen for France's Muslim groups have all condemned the cartoons, and welcomed the sacking of the managing editor at France Soir.

The head of the Council of the Muslims of France said the group was looking into taking France Soir to court for provocation.

In Paris, many ordinary Muslims said they agreed that the cartoons themselves were hurtful and blasphemous.

Abdel Malik said: "This is not the right time for newspapers to be publishing things like that. People are upset and angry. After 9/11, terrorism, all of that, there are certain sensitivities. Muslims everywhere feel hurt by it."

IRAN, Frances Harrison

Many people who said they wouldn't normally come to Friday prayers said they had come this time to protest against the cartoons insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Delivering his sermon at Friday prayers, former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said Muslims around the world had spontaneously protested days before their governments had begun objecting.

Several thousand Iranians took part in the protests - here the argument that the media should be free seems like a feeble excuse for an unforgivable insult.

The message is that freedom of speech should not mean freedom to insult someone's religion.

Iran has already said it will not issue visas to any journalist from a country where the cartoons are published.

DENMARK, Julian Isherwood

The Danish prime minister told a gathering of the diplomatic corps that he had gone as far as the Danish government could go in explaining Denmark's position regarding freedom of speech and expression, and why his government was constitutionally unable to censure the media.

Now, he said, it was a question of diplomacy. He said he was pleased that the Jyllands-Posten newspaper had apologised for the distress it had caused in the Muslim world, and he appealed to the ambassadors to take part in "endeavours to re-establish relations between the various cultures involved".

It is not yet clear how Muslim ambassadors received the prime minister's speech.

Certainly the group that asked the prime minister for a meeting last October to discuss the issue but were denied a meeting, may feel that it's too little too late.

They may feel that the issue has now escalated from being solely a Danish issue - that could have been resolved locally - to an international clash of cultures.

INDONESIA, Rachel Harvey

Up until Friday there had been very little reaction to the cartoons, but a well known hard-line Muslim organisation has now staged a protest at the building where the Danish embassy is based.

A Danish flag is destroyed by protesters in Jakarta
Protesters gathered at the Danish Embassy in Jakarta

The embassy is on the upper floor of an office building. The protesters, maybe numbering 150-200 at their height, stormed into the lobby and started pelting eggs. They tore down the Danish flag.

But they seemed to be calmed when the Danish ambassador offered to sit down and discuss the issue with some of them.

We spoke to one of those inside the room and he said that the ambassador made clear that these cartoons were not meant to offend or be patronising, but clearly they had caused offence. And he issued an apology for that.

We were told that apology had been accepted. The protesters had all gone away.

They moved from the Danish embassy to the offices of a local newspaper.

Yesterday it had posted on its website one of these cartoons as a means of illustrating what this row is all about.

That in itself has caused offence and the newspaper has given its own apology.

That gives a sense of how difficult this issue is here.

EGYPT, Ian Pannell

I think the protests here are coming from different areas.

The government, led by President Hosni Mubarak, has been very vocal.

He issued a very strong statement which warned of severe repercussions if this campaign and the publication of these cartoons continued. He talked about the possible terrorist threat over the cartoons.

But also religious organisations have been at the forefront of the protests.

As Friday prayers got under way in Cairo, many people were expecting, on what has been called a day of anger, that this would be a topic for many of the sermons around the country.

The newspapers have been full of commentary. Some of this has been against the West and against Denmark. It has been put in the wider context of the anti-Muslim feeling in the West.

But there are voices out there not altogether isolated which are urging caution and urging a verbal response not a physical response.

Some of these people are saying it is the job of Muslims to educate the West about their religion rather than respond in this angry way.

But the mood, certainly on the streets, is one of personal offence and personal anger.

UK, Barnie Choudhury

The cartoons have angered many Muslims in the UK.

There was a demonstration outside the BBC after the corporation showed a glimpse of the cartoons on television reports.

A demonstration has been planned outside a London mosque to coincide with Friday prayers.

It has been organised by Al-Ghuraba, described by the Muslim Council of Britain as "extremist elements".

Al-Ghuraba plans to march and protest outside the Danish Embassy in London following the prayers.

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, Inyat Bunglawala, said while he understood that Muslims would be hurt and offended by the cartoons, he urged them not to be provoked into breaking the law.

Muslims are offended by these cartoons for several reasons. The main one is that Muslims do not believe in idols. So any image in any form of any prophet or God is offensive.

One imam described it to me by asking me to imagine someone slagging off your parents. This is a million times worse, he said.

The Prophet Muhammad is the gateway to Allah, and is his messenger. Offend him and you offend God.

Another reason is that some of the cartoons depict the Prophet as a terrorist.

Shaykh Ibhrahim Mogra is from the Muslim Council of Britain and an imam in Leicester.

"Muslims will respect the rights of others to choose a way of life for themselves or a religion. But at the same time we reserve the right to disagree most emphatically with those lifestyles, just as others have a right to disagree with our lifestyle. This is the most offensive thing - even the vilification of God is not as offensive as this," he said.


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