Niamey: The protests against Charlie Hebdo's Prophet Muhammad cartoons raged for second day in Niger raising the death toll to 10 as five more people succumbed to the violence perpetrated by angry rioters who burned churches and attacked cops.
Even as security has been beefed up across Europe in wake of deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks on Jan 7 that killed 12 people, people across Muslim countries like Algeria, Pakistan, Somalia, etc have been erupting in anger over a fresh Prophet Muhammad cartoon published by the French weekly last Wednesday that showed a tearful Prophet holding the sign “Je suis Charlie”.
Niger, which is a former French colony predominantly inhabited by Muslims, too witnessed angry demonstrations as rioters set churches ablaze.
Riots raged in Niger capital Niamey as over a thousand youths armed with bars and axes set alight churches and attacked a police station as well, killing five – all civilians.
Police used tear gas to tackle the protesters who hurled stones at them in return.Fresh deaths on Saturday came after five people were killed in the town of Zinder on Friday.
According to a Reuters report, President Mahamadou Issoufou said that five people died after demonstrations in the capital city of Niamey on Saturday. The victims were inside churches and bars that were set ablaze, he said.
Speaking in a televised address, the President said that those who were attacking churches and killing their Christian compatriots, “understand nothing of Islam”.
"Those who pillage religious sites and profane them, those who persecute and kill their Christian compatriots or foreigners who live on our soil, have understood nothing of Islam," he said.
The president however added that he also shared the disgust of Muslims who felt offended by the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad and that freedom of expression should not mean liberty to insult religious beliefs.
Issoufou joined a march in Paris last weekend alongside French President Francois Hollande, in the wake of a gun attack that killed 12 people at the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo,
Iranian judicial authorities on Saturday banned a daily newspaper for publishing a front-page headline that allegedly indicated support for Charlie Hebdo. Mohammad Ghoochani, chief editor of the daily Mardom-e-Emrooz, or Today's People, told the semi-official Tasnim news agency that his paper had been ordered closed. The paper's Tuesday edition featured a front-page article with a headline that quoted filmmaker and activist George Clooney as saying "I am Charlie Hebdo." However the accompanying article did not actually express support for Clooney's statement, nor for the magazine itself.
The Iranian government has publicly condemned both the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the magazine itself, calling the continued publishing of Muhammad caricatures "provocative" and an insult to Islam.
Elsewhere in the Muslim world on Saturday, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani condemned Charlie Hebdo, calling the newest cover image of Prophet Muhammad a blasphemous and irresponsible act.
Protesters also demonstrated in front of the French Embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, as well as in the Pakistani city of Karachi. In Egypt, the Islamist Noor Party denounced the latest Charlie Hebdo cover on its French-language Facebook page. "Just as the Noor Party rejects the assault on civilians and the negative effects it has for all Muslims of Europe, it also rejects this barbaric, irresponsible act under the name of freedom of expression," the statement declared.
In Gaza City, the capital of the Gaza Strip, unknown vandals scrawled graffiti on the walls of the French Cultural Center. In addition to statements praising the Prophet Muhammad and declaring him off-limits for ridicule or satire, the vandals also wrote: "To hell, to a miserable destiny, French journalists."
Many Muslims have expressed disgust at the deadly assault on the magazine's Paris office by Islamic extremists who killed 12 people. However many also remain deeply offended by the magazine's record of publishing cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. Those passions were further inflamed this week when the magazine's first issue following the attack carried a cover cartoon depicting Muhammad holding a "Je Suis Charlie" sign.
According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.
With Agency Inputs