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Muslim Demonstrations Continue, Governments Urged to Reinstate Calm


This week anger grew over those published cartoons depicting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. Wednesday, U.S. President George W. Bush denounced the violence of protestors and called on world leaders to help restore calm.

During a White House meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah, U.S. President George W. Bush had this reaction to the violence. “We reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in a free press. I call upon the governments around the world to stop the violence, to be respectful, to protect property, to protect the lives of innocent diplomats who are serving their countries overseas.”

Protesters across the Muslim world are angry about the cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper, and have taken to the streets to show it. With some of the protests becoming increasingly violent, the U.N., the E.U., and the Islamic Conference are appealing for calm -- saying that "aggression against life and property can only damage the image of a peaceful Islam."

The Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, says the protests could spin out of control. "We are today facing a growing global crisis that has the potential to escalate beyond the control of governments and other authorities. Right now, radicals, extremists and fanatics are adding fuel to the flames in order push forward their own agenda."

But anger over the cartoons is increasingly spilling into the streets of many cities in the Muslim world.

In Afghanistan, protesters attacked a NATO base demonstrating against the cartoons. At least four participants were killed and at least four NATO soldiers were wounded. Several protesters were also hurt in nearby Indian Kashmir.

In Pakistan, women and children are part of a group protesting the controversial cartoons.

In the Philippines, Muslim protesters burned Denmark's flag and displayed banners reading "Danish go home" and "Danish enemy of Islam."

In Indonesia -- the world's most populous Muslim country -- demonstrators rallied at the Danish embassy in Jakarta.

In Iran, protesters gathered at the Norwegian embassy, setting fires and throwing stones.

The country's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameni, says the protests are not against Christians but rather are against the "malicious hands, which are playing upon the politicians of the world."

Professor Akbar Ahmed of American University in Washington, D.C. says the uproar highlights the tension between religious tolerance and freedom of speech:

“In a sense you’re seeing an irresistible force, the Muslims, and an immovable object, that is the principle of freedom of expression in the West. And these two are clashing. You saw it earlier with the Salman Rushdie crisis when he wrote the “Satanic Verses” over a decade ago and you had the reaction by the Muslims. And in a sense you’re seeing a resonance and echo of the same kind of crisis where two cultures, as it were, are in conflict and clash. And in some sense not understanding the sensitivities of each other.”

Professor Ahmed, who was the Pakistani Ambassador to the United Kingdom, called on Western and Muslim nations to be more sensitive to each other’s cultures:

“Understanding that the world we’re living in is a world which is mixed up, it’s a kind of salad bowl of cultures. And if we are to live with some harmony, we need to respect each other. Muslims need to be much more sensitive to how the West functions. And the West must understand how Muslims respond to religiosity to the Divine and to theology itself,” Professor Ahmed said.