Thousands demonstrated in the Middle East Friday and clashes broke out in Pakistan as a new cartoon of Islam’s prophet Mohammed published by French magazine Charlie Hebdo angered Muslims.
In Zinder, Niger’s second city, protesters smashed the entrance door to the French cultural centre and set fire to its cafeteria, library and offices, while three churches were also torched.
“We’ve never seen that in living memory in Zinder,” an administration official said. “It’s a black Friday.”
In Karachi, Pakistan, at least three people were injured when protesters clashed with police outside the French consulate, officials said.
Among them was an AFP photographer, who was shot in the back.
As Muslims raged, with protesters in Dakar and Mauritania torching French flags, Qatar and Bahrain warned that the cartoon published Wednesday by the French satirical weekly could fuel hatred.
In Amman, around 2,500 protesters set off from Al-Husseini mosque under tight security, holding banners that read “insulting the prophet is global terrorism.”
In Algiers, 2,000-3,000 marchers chanted “We are all Mohammed,” though some shouted their support for the Islamist Kouachi brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
Around 100 protesters rallied in Istanbul in response to a call by a group calling itself the Fraternal Platform of the Prophet’s Companions, with some holding pictures of the Kouachis.
The latest issue of Charlie Hebdo features a cartoon of Mohammed on its cover holding a “Je Suis Charlie” (I am Charlie) sign under the headline “All is forgiven.”
It was the first edition since Cherif and Said Kouachi gunned down 12 people in an attack on the magazine’s Paris offices on January 7 over such cartoons.
The image has angered many Muslims as depictions of Mohammed are widely considered forbidden in Islam.
Algerian protesters chanted: “Kouachi martyrs” or “I am Kouachi” as the demonstration wound its way to the National Assembly, and some clashed with riot police deployed around the building.
AFP photographer Asif Hassan, a policeman and a local TV cameraman were injured in Karachi when clashes also broke out between police and protesters.
A police official said the violence began when police prevented some 350 protesters from approaching the French consulate, in the sprawling metropolis.
Elsewhere in Pakistan, protesters in Peshawar and Multan burnt French flags on the streets, while rallies were held Islamabad and Lahore.
A French flag was also set on fire outside the embassy in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, where 1,000 protesters rallied, denouncing Charlie Hebdo and chanting slogans of praise to the prophet.
“To hell with you Charlie,” said one message scrawled on a banner.
In Nouakchott, thousands marched chanting “I am Muslim” with some setting on fire a French flag after security forces prevented them from reaching the French embassy, witnesses said.
Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz addressed the marchers, condemning the controversial cartoon as “an attack on our religion and on all religions”.
In Jerusalem’s flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated quietly, some with banners reading “Islam is a religion of peace!”
In Khartoum, hundreds poured out of the Grand Mosque and marched across the adjacent square, chanting “Expel the French ambassador. Victory to the Prophet of God!”
One banner said: “The French government should apologise and the French government must stop insults to religious figures.”
In Lebanon’s flashpoint city of Tripoli, 70 people marched with banners bearing the name of the prophet and chanting “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).
In Baddawi, on the outskirts of the city, prayer leader Sheikh Mohammed Ibrahimi addressed hundreds of worshippers saying: “May God punish this newspaper and those who back it”.
In Tunis, worshippers at El-Fath mosque walked out as prayer leader Noureddine Khadmi said: “We are all against insults made against our prophet but it is not a reason to kill.”
Some of them shouted out that Charlie Hebdo journalists “deserved to be killed because they insulted our prophet many times.”
Protests also erupted Friday in areas of conflict-hit Syria held by rebels and jihadists with demonstrators demanding “respect for religions,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
A protest in Tehran was cancelled, with no official reason given, as senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ali Movahedi Kermani told worshippers the cartoon’s publication amounted to “savagery.”
Muslim governments also joined the chorus of condemnation of the cartoon.
Qatar branded as “offensive” the drawing, which was reprinted by several European papers in a show of solidarity with the victims of last week’s attack.
“These disgraceful actions are in the interest of nobody and will only fuel hatred and anger,” the foreign ministry warned.
Bahrain’s foreign ministry echoed that, saying publication of such cartoons “will create fertile ground for the spread of hatred and terrorism.”
Charlie Hebdo’s latest cartoon is “disgraceful” and no more than attempt to provoke Muslims and mock their beliefs, it said.
Both Qatar and Bahrain had sent representatives to a massive march in Paris last Sunday in support of free speech, alongside French President Francois Hollande and many other world leaders, including Muslims.