Niger (ANTARA News) -The decision by Charlie Hebdo to publish a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad this week prompted angry protests in several Muslim countries on Friday leading to violence and in one case deaths.
Four people were reported killed and dozens injured at a demonstration in the West African country of Niger, and violent clashes broke out between demonstrators and police in Pakistan, Jordan and Algeria.

In Niger, a former French colony, a protest turned violent as demonstrators set fire to churches and raided shops run by Christians. A French cultural centre was set ablaze in the southern town of Zinder, and one security officer and three demonstrators were killed in the melee, said interior minister Hassoumi Massaoudou. Another 20 security officers and 23 civilians were injured, he said.

A photographer was shot and others were injured during the protests by radical religious parties in Pakistan on Friday. The move by the French satirical magazine to feature the prophet’s image gave Pakistan’s religious right a chance to demonstrate its street power with a so-called “Black Day” of protests on exactly the same day civil-society activists were attempting to channel popular anger at the massacre of more than 130 school boys by the Taliban in December.

In Algeria, meanwhile, police were struggling to contain more than a thousand protesters chanting “I am not Charlie, I am Muhammad” in the streets of Algiers after Friday prayers. .

In Amman, the capital of Jordan, about 2,000 protesters organised by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood clashed with security forces. Several hundred Muslim worshippers in Khartoum, Sudan, marched briefly to demand the expulsion of the French ambassador from the country.

In Pakistan, Friday had been declared as a nationwide protest against terrorism to mark the passing of one month since the attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School, and to demand action against extremists.

Citizens held vigils in cities around the country, including outside parliament in Islamabad, voicing demands that included the arrest of a notorious Taliban-sympathising mullah in the capital, the regulation of religious seminaries and the end of the misuse of Pakistan’s much-criticised blasphemy laws.

However, scenes from the far larger demonstrations arranged by a coalition of 20 religious parties against the perceived blasphemy committed by Charlie Hebdo dominated coverage on Pakistan’s rolling news channels.

While the civil-society protests were overwhelmingly polite and attended by many women, the mullah-led protests were angry, overwhelmingly male, and, in Karachi, violent.

In the southern port city police battled with activists from the Jamaat-e-Islami party who attempted to approach the French consulate. Television cameras caught glimpses of guns brandished by some of the men. Police resorted to firing in the air and dousing the crowd with a water cannon.

At least three people were wounded in the clashes. Asif Hassan, a photographer working for the French news agency AFP, was seriously injured by a shot to the chest.

Across the country protesters burned French flags and demanded an international law banning blasphemy against Islam.

“We will praise anyone who chops off the hands or cuts off the head of a blasphemer,” Abdul Rahman Makki, a senior leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, told a crowd of supporters in Islamabad.

“We are not like other nations who tolerate insult to their holy personality.”

The group is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UN because it operates as a front organisation for Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group that executed the 2008 attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai.

The rallies came a day after the Pakistan parliament passed a unanimous declaration condemning both the Charlie Hebdo cartoon and “the continued trend of their re-production in numerous other newspapers and magazines of other western capitals”.

Afterwards MPs marched outside parliament chanting that they were prepared to die for their prophet.

Also on Friday, a leading Pakistani Taliban splinter group praised the “blessed attacks in France” but had harsh words for governments and media in the Islamic world, who the group said had not condemned the magazine forcefully enough.

“It has become a norm for this media to brand the defenders of the honour of Prophet Muhammad as terrorists,” the Taliban statement complained.

Editor: Priyambodo RH
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