Friday, May 27, 2005

Muslims protest U.S. from Asia to Mideast - Muslims protest U.S. from Asia to Mideast - May 27, 2005
SLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Thousands of Muslims marched Friday in Islamic countries from Asia to the Middle East, burning symbols of the United States to protest the alleged desecration of the Quran by military personnel at a American prison in Guantanamo, Bay, Cuba.

The rallies in Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia and elsewhere followed an admission Thursday by U.S. investigators that Islam's holy book was mishandled at Guantanamo.

But American officials said it was often inadvertent and denied that any Qurans were flushed down a toilet, as Newsweek magazine had reported in a now-retracted article.

No injuries were reported in Friday's demonstrations, with police simply watching in most places.

In India's Kashmir region, however, police fired tear gas and used batons to disperse hundreds of Muslims gathered outside a mosque in the capital of Srinagar.

Women in black veils marched through Kashmir, where schools and businesses were closed as part of the protest, and set American flags and copies of the U.S. Constitution ablaze.

"The defilement of our holy book is outrageous because we consider it to be the word of God," thundered Asiya Andrabi, head of the women's group Daughters of the Community, through her veil. "Guantanamo Bay is a cage. It is not a prison."

More than 15,000 people took to the streets of Pakistan's largest cities. A demonstration in the capital of Islamabad began in a tense atmosphere, hours after a bomb at a Muslim shrine killed more than 15 people at an annual celebration. The motive for the suspected suicide bombing was not immediately clear. (Full story)

"We condemn sacrilege of the Quran by U.S. extremists," read one banner draped across a bus while protest leaders chanted into loudspeakers during a rally of at least 2,000 in Islamabad.

In Pakistan's southwestern city of Quetta, 5,000 demonstrators chanted slogans against the United States and Britain. Another 5,000 gathered in the southern city of Karachi, demanding the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador. Protests also were held in Lahore, near the Indian border.

The rallies were organized by a hard-line religious coalition, Mutahida Majlis-e-Amal, or United Action Forum -- a vocal opponent of Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

About 12,000 people, many of them supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group, gathered in Alexandria, Egypt, filling a three-story building and spilling into surrounding streets, listening to preachers who demanded an apology from U.S. officials. The neighborhood was ringed by police, who arrested 12 of the demonstrator's organizers.

About 1,000 people -- mostly lawyers -- gathered in downtown Cairo and were surrounded by double that number of riot police.

A similar number gathered in the Lebanese capital of Beirut, carrying black banners and burning American and Israeli flags.

"We will cut off the feet that desecrated the Quran!" the crowd yelled.