Accessibility links

Breaking News

Pakistanis Charged With Inciting Violence At Afghan Protest

Demonstrations against cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad have been staged across Afghanistan (epa) QALAT, Afghanistan; 9 February 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan officials in the volatile southern province of Zabol say more than 40 Pakistani workers have been arrested along with their Saudi Arabian boss on charges of inciting violence during a demonstration 8 February.

Four people were killed in Zabol's capital of Qalat when police opened fire on a crowd of protesters angered by the European publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad deemed by many Muslims as blasphemous.

The demonstrators were throwing stones at troops from the Afghan National Army. They also set fire to several vehicles and a school.

General Mohammad Nabi Manakhail, Zabol's provincial security chief, told RFE/RL that all of those arrested were workers for a Pakistani construction firm.

"They have been identified. We arrested at least 30 people [on 8 February]," Manakhail said. "And we have also identified those foreigners who were the organizers of these demonstrations and were heading them. Soon we will decide what to do with them."

A Plan To 'Create Chaos'

Manakhail added: "There is a construction company working here whose boss is from Saudi Arabia. And a majority of its workers are Punjabis, citizens of neighboring [Pakistan]. They had planned to take to the city streets and create chaos."

At first, said Manakhail, the demonstration was peaceful. But then, he said, the Pakistanis began firing pistols, prompting Afghan National Army soldiers to fire back from their passing vehicle.

"This is how one of the demonstrators was killed," Manakhail said. "When I myself was trying to take injured people to hospital in my car, I saw another group of Punjabis throwing stones at shops [in Qalat]."

Zabol's Governor Golab Shah Alikhel says some detainees paid bribes to local Afghans to encourage them to join in violence.

Alikhel says a total of 41 Pakistanis workers were being held today along with their Saudi Arabian boss.

Zabul is one of the frontline provinces in the ongoing fight between U.S.-led coalition forces and the remnants of the Taliban militia and Al-Qaeda.

Clash Of Cultures

Clash Of Cultures

Indian-born writer Salman Rushdie (epa file photo)

The furor raised by the publication in Europe of cartoons believed by many Muslims to be insulting to Islam is far from being the first time that Western notions of freedom of expression have clashed with Islamic sensibilities. Below are a few of the major incidents in this long-running tension.

2005: London's Tate Britain museum removes from exhibition the "God Is Great #2" sculpture by John Latham for fear of offending Muslims, citing the "sensitive climate" after 7 July suicide bombings in London. The sculpture piece consists of three sacred religious texts -- the Koran, the Bible, and the Talmud -- embedded in a sheet of glass.

2004: Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh is murdered after release of his film "Submission" about violence against women in Islamic societies. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born member of Dutch parliament who wrote script, plans another film about Islam's attitude to gays. She has also received death threats.

2002: Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel incenses Muslims by writing in "This Day" newspaper that Prophet Muhammad would have approved of the "Miss World" contest and might have wed a beauty queen. Muslim-Christian riots in northern city of Kaduna kill 200. Daniel flees Nigeria after a fatwa urges Muslims to kill her.

1995: An Egyptian court brands academic Nasr Hamed Abu Zaid an apostate because of his writings on Islam and annuls his marriage on grounds that a Muslim may not be married to an apostate. Abu Zaid and his wife move to the Netherlands.

1994: Taslima Nasreen flees Bangladesh for Sweden after court charges her with "maliciously hurting Muslim religious sentiments." Some Muslims demand she be killed for her book "Lajja" (Shame), banned for blasphemy and suggesting free sex.

1989: Iranian leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini calls on all Muslims to kill British author Salman Rushdie for blasphemy against Islam in his book "The Satanic Verses."

(compiled by RFE/RL)

See also:

Dutch Immigration -- The Death Of Multiculturalism

Report Says No Anti-Muslim Backlash In Europe

Vienna Conference Ends With Appeals For Understanding, Tolerance

A thematic webpage devoted to issues of religious tolerance in RFE/RL's broadcast region and around the globe.