* Violent protests erupt in Pakistani cities
* Demonstrations stay peaceful elsewhere in Muslim world
* France bans street protests over cartoons
By Aisha Chowdhry
ISLAMABAD, Sept 21 Muslim protests against
insults to the Prophet Mohammad turned violent in Pakistan,
where six people were killed on Friday, the Muslim day of
prayer, but remained mostly peaceful in Islamic countries
In France, where the publication of cartoons denigrating the
Prophet stoked anger over an anti-Islam video made in
California, the authorities banned all protests over the issue.
"There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will
be banned and broken up," said Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
Tunisia's Islamist-led government also banned protests
against the images published by French satirical weekly Charlie
Hebdo. Four people were killed and almost 30 wounded last week
when the U.S. embassy was stormed in a protest over the film.
Many Western and Muslim politicians and clerics have
appealed for calm, denouncing those behind the mockery of the
Prophet, but also condemning violent reactions to it.
At street level, Muslims enraged by attacks on their faith
spoke of a culture war with those in the West who put rights to
freedom of expression above any religious offence caused.
"They hate him (the Prophet Mohammad) and show this through
their continued works in the West, through their writings,
cartoons, films and the way they launch war against him in
schools," said Abdessalam Abdullah, a preacher at a mosque in
Beirut's Palestinian refugee camp of Bourj al-Barajneh.
Muslims generally consider any depiction of the Prophet
Western diplomatic missions in Muslim nations tightened
security ahead of Friday prayers. France ordered its embassies,
schools and cultural centres to shut in a score of countries.
"CUT HIM IN PIECES"
In Pakistan, tens of thousands of people joined protests
encouraged by the government in several cities including
Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Multan and Muzaffarabad.
The bloodiest unrest erupted in the southern city of
Karachi, where three policemen and two protesters were killed
and 112 people wounded, according to Allah Bachayo Memon,
spokesman of the chief minister of Sindh province. He said about
20 vehicles, three banks and five cinemas were set on fire.
Crowds set two cinemas ablaze and ransacked shops in the
northwestern city of Peshawar, clashing with riot police who
fired tear gas. At least five protesters were hurt and the ARY
television station said an employee had been killed.
Mohammed Tariq Khan, a protester in Islamabad, said: "Our
demand is that whoever has blasphemed against our holy Prophet
should be handed over to us so we can cut him up into tiny
pieces in front of the entire nation."
Security forces fired in the air in Peshawar and the eastern
city of Lahore to keep protesters away from U.S. consulates.
Police fired tear gas at about 1,000 protesters in Islamabad.
The U.S. embassy in Pakistan has run television spots, one
featuring Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, saying the
government had nothing to do with the film about Mohammad.
Pakistan declared Friday a "Day of Love" for the Prophet and
Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said an attack on Islam's
founder was "an attack on the whole 1.5 billion Muslims".
The foreign ministry summoned the U.S. chargé d'affaires to
lodge a protest over the video posted on YouTube, the latest in
an array of irritants poisoning U.S.-Pakistani relations.
In neighbouring Afghanistan, police contacted religious and
community leaders to try to prevent bloodshed. Protests in Kabul
and the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif only attracted a few
hundred people and no violence was reported, but a cleric told
one crowd: "If you kill Americans, it's legal and allowable."
About 10,000 Islamists gathered in the Bangladeshi capital,
Dhaka, after Friday prayers, chanting slogans and burning U.S.
and French flags and an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama.
Protests went off peacefully in the Arab world, where last
week several embassies were attacked and the U.S. envoy to Libya
was killed in an initial burst of unrest over the film.
In Yemen, where the U.S. embassy was stormed last week,
several hundred Shi'ite protesters chanted anti-American
slogans, but riot police blocked the route to the embassy.
Anger over the film brought several thousand Shi'ites and
Sunnis together in a rare show of sectarian unity in Iraq's
southern city of Basra, where they burnt U.S. and Israeli flags.
Lebanon's Hezbollah-run al-Manar television showed thousands
of people waving Lebanese and yellow Hezbollah flags as they
marched past the Roman ruins of Baalbek and shouted slogans such
as "Death to America, death to those who insult the Prophet".
A Beirut protester, who gave his name as Ahmed, called for a
boycott of Western products. "They hate us and want to get rid
of our culture and we will resist. We should reject all aspects
of their culture too," the 23-year-old student said, wearing
jeans and an orange t-shirt with English writing on it.
The violence provoked by the film has led to a total of
about 30 deaths so far, a United Nations official said.
"Both the film and the cartoons are malicious and
deliberately provocative. The film particularly portrays a
disgracefully distorted image of Muslims," Rupert Colville,
spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi
Pillay, told a news briefing in Geneva.
He said Pillay upheld people's right to protest peacefully,
but saw no justification for violent and destructive reactions.
"In the case of Charlie Hebdo, given that they knew
perfectly what happened in response to the film last week, it
seems doubly irresponsible on their part to have published these
cartoons," Colville said of the French magazine.