Hamas supporters protest over Prophet cartoon

Fri Feb 15, 2008 1:35pm GMT

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JABALYA, Gaza Strip Feb 15 (Reuters) - Thousands of supporters of the Islamist group Hamas protested in the Gaza Strip on Friday against the reprinting of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad that sparked Muslim outrage two years ago.

Hamas, which controls the coastal Palestinian territory, demanded that the Danish cartoonist be brought to trial and that an official apology be made to Muslims. It urged an end to what it called organised campaigns to spread hatred of Islam.

"We are all a sacrifice to the Prophet Mohammad, our blood, our property and our families are all a sacrifice to him," a Hamas activist shouted through a loudspeaker after Friday prayers in the Jabalya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.

Danish newspapers said they reprinted a cartoon showing the Prophet with a bomb in his turban in protest over a plot to murder the cartoonist. The original drawing published in September 2005 sparked criticism and riots in the Muslim world.

At least 4,000 Hamas supporters took part in the rally on Friday, many waving green Hamas flags and others holding banners condemning the cartoons and urging Muslims to take action against Denmark.

"Muslims must not be silent against these cartoons which are offensive to the great Prophet Mohammad," one banner read.

Most Muslims consider any depiction of the founder of Islam as offensive.

"We urge Arab and Muslim countries to exert their efforts and to use all pressure tools under their control to stop these organised campaigns that spread hatred of Islam under so-called freedom of expression," a Hamas statement said.

Masked militants blew up the library of the YMCA in Gaza early on Friday, destroying the building but causing no injuries. Security sources said they were investigating whether it was an attack on a specifically Christian symbol, and whether it was related to the reprinting of the Danish cartoon.

Some 3,000 Christians live among 1.5 million Muslims in the Gaza Strip, which was taken over by Hamas in June, and relations between the two communities have generally been good, although a Christian bookshop was blown up last year and its owner killed.