Over 70,000 Join Riot in Pakistan's Largest Cartoon Protest

Violence erupted in Pakistan on Wednesday as more than 70,000 people joined Pakistan’s largest protest yet against the Muhammad cartoons.
( [email protected] ) Feb 16, 2006 07:45 PM EST

Violence erupted in Pakistan on Wednesday as more than 70,000 people joined Pakistan’s largest protest yet against the Muhammad cartoons.

Gunfire, rioting, and torching of movie theaters, a KFC restaurant, and a South Korea-run bus station took place on the third consecutive day of unrest, the Associated Press reported. According to police and witnesses, three people died and dozens were injured in two cities.

In Peshawar, a massive crowd torched businesses and fought with police who retaliated with tear gas and batons.

Protestors chanted “Death to Denmark!” and “Hang those who drew the insulting cartoons!”

Violent demonstration also took place on Monday in the northwestern city.

"The European newspapers have abused our religion," said Shaukat Khan, 22, to AP. "We are expressing our anger. Usually protesters are peaceful but some miscreants do bad things and other people join them."

In Lahore, riots continued for the second day where about 1,500 students demonstrated outside of Punjab University in the eastern city, beating up a police officer and disrupting traffic a senior police officer reported to AP.

The day prior, hundreds of vehicles, several Western businesses including a KFC, a McDonald’s, Citibank and a Telenor office were burned in Lahore.

World Council of Churches General Secretary Samuel Kobia in a press conference on Tuesday ahead of the Council’s ninth Assembly said, “Violent reactions, as well as justifying these cartoons as an expression of freedom of speech, continue to put fuel on the fire.”

The WCC has not yet released a formal statement on the violence, though according to its officials, a statement will be made during the course of the Assembly.

Protests and riots have taken place in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in reaction to cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad which was first published in a Danish newspaper last September. The cartoons have been reprinted in Europe and elsewhere, including some in the United States, and has caused an uproar in the Muslim world.

“We strongly appeal to responsible leaders of all faiths to do their utmost to reject and do their utmost to stop the ongoing acts of violence and terror, which are carried out in the name of God,” said Bishop Emeritus Gunnar Stalsett, the former Bishop of Oslo and special advisor to Norwegian Church Aid earlier last week in Oslo, Norway.

“We condemn the misuse of freedom of expression to blaspheme that which is holy for believers. All religions hold certain symbols and realities of faith to be holy, and feel particularly strongly about these. These feelings should be respected by all people, regardless of faith,” Stalsett continued.

“The deeply offensive series of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad are a grievous affront to most of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims. As such, they are also deeply offensive to members of other religious communities. We join the appeal from The European Islamic Conference to Muslims not to be carried away by anger, and not to react with violence,” he stated.