News / Asia

    Charlie Hebdo Protest Turns Violent in Pakistan

    • Men move a policeman by stretcher who was wounded after being hit by stones during a protest organized by Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (JTI), the student wing of religious political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), against the satirical French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, Jan. 16, 2015.
    • Supporters of Pakistani religious group Jamaat-i-Islami protest caricatures published in French magazine Charlie Hebdo, in Karachi, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
    • Supporters of Jamiat Talaba Islam (JTI), the student wing of religious political party Jamat Islami (JI), chant slogans during a protest against satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which most recently featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover, Karachi, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
    • A policeman uses his gun to disperse protesters during a protest against satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover after the terror attack in Paris, Karachi, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
    • Protesters chant slogans during a protest against satirical French weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on the cover after the terror attack in Paris, Quetta, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.
    • Supporters of Jamiat Talaba Islam (JTI), the student wing of Jamat Islami (JI), throws stones at policemen during a protest against satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo, which featured a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad on its cover after the Paris terror attack, Karachi, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015.    
    Ayaz Gul

    Islamist parties in Pakistan on Friday staged rallies against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing cartoons depicting Islam's  Prophet Muhammad.  Pakistan's parliament a day earlier unanimously approved a resolution condemning what it called the “blasphemous caricatures.” Under Pakistani laws, blasphemy carries the death penalty.

    The government has condemned the January 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. But many in overwhelmingly-Muslim Pakistan view the magazine's caricatures of Muhammad as a profound insult to Islam.

    In Islam, visual representations of all the prophets and messengers of God are prohibited in order to prevent idolatry, and the worshipping of the images themselves rather than God.

    Demonstrations were organized across the country after midday Friday prayers and almost all of them ended without incident. In Karachi however, a group of protesters wanted to march on the French consulate and they became violent when police blocked their way.  Security forces fired tear gas, water cannon and warning shots to disperse the crowd.

    The clashes wounded several people, including a photojournalist with the French news agency AFP. Witnesses and police reported some of the protesters carried guns, blaming them for the casualties. Protest rallies were also organized in other Pakistani cities but all passed peacefully.

    Several hundred demonstrators gathered in a central part of the Pakistani capital and shouted slogans denouncing Charlie Hebdo. They demanded the French magazine be closed immediately for insulting Islam’s Prophet. Rally participants were carrying banners that read “Shame on Charlie Hebdo.”

    Abdul Manan, a student at Islamabad’s Islamic University, explained his view.

    He says that hurting and playing with the sentiments of Muslims by allowing such publications must come to an end.  Manan says Islam and Muslims are a peaceful religion and people but they cannot tolerate the insult of their prophet.  Such acts are being done repeatedly and can lead to more extremist violence and destroy world peace, he says.

    Charlie Hebdo is known for its satirical attacks on religion - Islam and others.  Two gunmen attacked its Paris headquarters last week and killed 12 people, including editors, cartoonists and two policemen.  But the deadly assault that did not stop Charlie Hebdo from publishing a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad in the weekly’s new issue this past Wednesday.   

    Pakistan's parliament on Thursday unanimously adopted a resolution condemning publication of the image and lawmakers later marched outside to protest the French weekly’s latest cover.  

    Friday’s protests against Charlie Hebdo came the same day civil society groups organized candlelight vigils across Pakistan to mark one month since Islamist extremists attacked a school in the city of Peshawar and massacred 150 people, most of them children. Participants at one such rally in Islamabad demanded the government take serious action against religious extremism.

    Protesters were chanting 'down with terrorism' and 'down with the Taliban' and demanded the government arrest Islamist clerics, including a preacher at a mosque in Islamabad for supporting Islamist militancy.

    Human rights advocate Tahira Abdullah while speaking to VOA criticized Pakistan's government for not moving against Islamic seminaries that are allegedly involved in promoting religious extremism and terrorism.

    “We have laws we have policies, we lack the political will and the commitment," Abdullah said. "Our politicians live in fear, they are cowards. And now we want to have military courts. Why, why? Is it because the army colonel or the major who is going to sit as a judge in the court will go home to a barricaded cantonment home at night?  And [civil] judges have no protection, police have no protection, prosecution have no protection, witnesses have no protection. We need to strengthen our existing civilian structures.”

    Pakistan has introduced several administrative and legislative measures as part of its counter-terrorism efforts since the Peshawar school attack. The measures include reinstatement of the death penalty and setting up military courts to try civilian terror suspects. Since the school raid, authorities have hanged around 20 people convicted of previous terrorism charges.  

    The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the school attack and has threatened more assaults.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    January 16, 2015 2:05 PM
    One likes the way the followers of islam get up on the caricatureof their prophet published some days ago. One would like to see them rise up when jihadists kill people shouting the name of their God.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    January 16, 2015 1:08 PM
    REMEMBER WHEN, the US and European leaders begged the independent distributers of the obscene video mocking the Prophet Muhammad not to release it, declaring it would inflame the Islamic world to erupt in violence, riots and killings, [BUT NOW], the US and European leaders defend the Hebdo publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, and praise their courage for doing it?.... [remember the releasing of the Abu Ghraib torture photos, that the Bush administration vehemently opposed?].... [who makes the final decisions, the people or politicians?].... [on what is right or wrong?].
    In Response

    by: Bob from: USA
    January 16, 2015 2:49 PM
    The act of violence is disgraceful and disgusting and the responses of those who applauded it are shameful. The people who committed this crime were French citizens, drinking French water and driving on French roads. If they do not like French freedom of expression, let them move to Pakistan, where the government puts blasphemers in jail.
    On the other hand, if the Muslims in France or the US or anywhere else want to live in a country which supports free speech, they must live with the reality that people are going to say negative things or blasphemous things. It is really hypocritical for French Muslims to enjoy the benefits of freedom only when it is in their favor.

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