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Muslims protest at cartoon in latest Charlie Hebdo

23 January 2015


On guard: French soldiers patrol in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, on Tuesday, as part of a security plan after the Islamist attacks on 7 January

On guard: French soldiers patrol in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris, on Tuesday, as part of a security plan after the Islamist attacks on 7 Jan...

PROTESTS around the world by Muslims angered by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo's publishing another cartoon of Muhammad have turned violent, and dozens have been killed and injured.

One week after 12 people were killed by Islamist terrorists in the offices of Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, the magazine published its next edition, which featured a weeping Muhammad holding the now famous "Je suis Charlie" sign on its cover (News, 16 January).

The cartoon has angered many Muslims. The worst clashes were in Niger, where hundreds gathered outside the grand mosque in the capital, Niamey, last week, to protest against Charlie Hebdo.

The protesters began to riot, burning churches to the ground and looting businesses believed to be owned by non-Muslims or French people. Two people died inside a burning church on the outskirts of Niamey, and one woman's body was found in a bar that had been at- tacked, Reuters has reported.

There was also rioting in Niger's second city, Zinder. At least five people were killed there, and a police spokesman said that a Christian school and orphanage had been set on fire. In total, some 170 people were said to have been injured, and at least ten killed during the Niger protests. Forty-five churches were also attacked.

The Interior Minister of Niger, Hassoumi Massaoudou, said that the government was investigating whether the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram was involved in the violence, after reports that the militants' flag was seen in the crowds. Three days of national mourning have been declared.

In Pakistan, thousands marched against Charlie Hebdo in protests called by the country's largest Islamist political party. It has been reported that some religious leaders in the country have called for jour-nalists at the magazine to be hanged.

At least three people were injured during the protests in Karachi, including a press photographer, who was shot in the chest. He is said to be recovering after surgery. French flags, and effigies of the French President, FranÇois Hollande, were also burned.

In Britain, the Government sent a letter to more than 1000 imams and Muslim leaders, urging them to condemn the killings at Charlie Hebdo, and to work harder to force out extremist preachers.

Written by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, and a junior minister, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the letter said that the imams had a "responsibility" to stop young Muslims from being radicalised.

"We must show our young people, who may be targeted, that extremists have nothing to offer them," Mr Pickles wrote. "There is a need to lay out more clearly than ever before what being a British Muslim means today: proud of your faith, and proud of your country."

Some Muslim leaders, however, said that the letter was "patronising" and insulting in the way it singled out Muslims. Talha Ahmad, of the Muslim Council of Britain, told Sky News that the letter "feeds into an Islamophobic narrative, which feeds into a narrative of us and them".

The chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, Mohammed Shafiq, also criticised the letter, which, he said, was "typical of the Government only looking at Muslims through the prism of terrorism and security".

Police have increased patrols around mosques in northern England, and an organisation that monitors anti-Islamic hate crimes said that there had been a slight increase in incidents after the attacks in Paris.

Security has also been tightened around Jewish schools and synagogues, after the attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris by an associate of the Charlie Hebdo killers.

Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith groups have come together to draft a joint statement condemning hate speech, but pledging to root out extremist attitudes in their own communities, too. Organised by the interfaith charity Three Faiths Forum, the statement will be signed on Sunday, shortly before a screening of a documentary about Albanian Muslims who sheltered Jews fleeing from the Holocaust.

A similar joint statement of condemnation of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher-supermarket attacks has been released by an interfaith group made up of representatives from nine different religions in Leeds.

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