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Denmark Advises Citizens to Leave Indonesia, as Protests Over Political Cartoons Sweep Asia

  • Nancy-Amelia Collins

Denmark has advised its citizens to leave Indonesia, as protests continued across Asia over political cartoons, originally published in a Danish newspaper, depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

The Danish ambassador in Jakarta, Neils Erik Andersen, says his Foreign Ministry has advised Danish citizens in Indonesia to leave the country.

"They have ended up by advising Danes to leave because the assessment is that it's not safe for Danes to be here," he said.

Last week, protesters from two militant Islamic groups forced their way into the building housing the Danish embassy in Jakarta before being evicted.

Denmark closed its embassy after the incident, but small protests continued Tuesday outside the building.

Andersen says he is uncertain when the embassy will reopen.

"We take it one day at a time right now and we hope of course this situation will calm down very, very soon," he said.

The Danish decision came as protests by Muslims angered by the cartoons swept across Asia Tuesday. The 12 cartoons, which depict the Muslim prophet in an unfavorable light, were first published in a Danish newspaper last September.

They have since been reprinted by newspapers in Europe, the United States, and New Zealand, partly for information and partly in support of press freedom.

The cartoons have infuriated many Muslims, because Islamic tradition bans the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad to prevent idolatry, which is forbidden.

In Afghanistan Tuesday, demonstrations turned violent for the second day, and at least one Afghan was killed. Protesters clashed with police and NATO peacekeepers in front of the Danish diplomatic mission in the capital, Kabul, and another group fought with Norwegian peacekeepers in the northwest of the country. Four Afghans were killed in violence related to the cartoons Monday.

In Pakistan, where the senate passed a resolution condemning the cartoons, around 5,000 protesters turned out Tuesday in the city of Peshawar for the biggest demonstration yet in that country.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Tuesday accused both a Malaysian newspaper and foreign publications of being insensitive for reprinting the cartoons. But he also appealed for calm. Demonstrations against the cartoons were held in India, Thailand and the Philippines.

Indonesia, a secular nation with the world's largest Muslim population, has seen demonstrations against the cartoons spread across the archipelago.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yuri Thamrin says the Indonesian government has condemned the publication.

"We condemn such thing because it's really sort of reflecting insensitivity. Its defamation and desecration of religious symbol," he said. "I think it is widely accepted that freedom of expression is very important, but it cannot be used to justify such an insult."

However, the Foreign Ministry spokesman says the government does not condone violent protests. He says Indonesians have the right to protest, but must do it within the law.

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