Photographer shot at Pakistan anti-Charlie Hebdo rally

Adil Jawad and Zarar Khan
Associated Press

Karachi, Pakistan — A rally by Pakistani students against a French satirical weekly’s latest publication of a Prophet Muhammad cartoon turned violent on Friday, with police firing warning shots and water cannons to disperse the demonstration. A photographer with the Agence France-Presse was shot and wounded in the melee.

But although there were concerns that rallies against Charlie Hebdo’s new cover depicting the prophet — an act deemed insulting to many followers of Islam — would unravel into violence across the Muslim world, most of the protests elsewhere passed peacefully.

The weekly’s new issue with a drawing of Muhammad, a tear rolling down his cheek and holding a placard that reads “Je Suis Charlie” — a saying that has swept France and the world — was an act of defiance in the wake of last week’s terrorist attack at the paper’s Paris office that killed 12 people, including editors, cartoonists and two policemen.

Pakistan has condemned the Paris massacre but many people in this overwhelmingly Muslim country view the magazine’s prophet caricatures as a profound insult. Protesters took to the streets after midday prayers in the port city of Karachi, the eastern city of Lahore and the capital of Islamabad to denounce the weekly.

In Karachi, clashes erupted when the protesters started heading toward the French Consulate. They began throwing stones at the police, who tried to push them back with water cannons and tear gas.

AFP news director Michele Leridon said photographer Asif Hassan was shot and wounded. He underwent surgery and “his life does not seem in danger,” Leridon said.

It was not immediately clear how Hassan was shot. AFP said they were trying to find out whether he was targeted or accidentally shot.

Karachi police officer, Naseer Tanoly, said some of the protesters were armed and opened fire on the police, who fired into the air to disperse the crowd. The protesters were mostly students affiliated with the Jamaat-e-Islami political party.

But Umair Saeed, an official with the party’s student wing in Karachi, denied the students had weapons and blamed the police for opening fire.

In Islamabad, about 1,000 people gathered after Friday prayers to condemn the magazine. The demonstrators carried signs that read “Shame on Charlie Hebdo” and “If you are Charlie, then I am Kouachi” — referring to the brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi who carried out the assault on the weekly and who had told survivors they were sent by al-Qaida in Yemen.

In Lahore, about 800 people rallied against the magazine for a second day. On Thursday, Pakistani lawmakers passed a resolution against cartoons of the prophet and marched outside parliament to protest Charlie Hebdo’s latest cover.

The magazine has invoked freedom of speech to defend its publications of cartoons of the prophet.

In the Jordanian capital, Amman, clashes also erupted after Friday prayers between about 2,000 protesters organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, the country’s largest opposition group, and security forces. Riot police used batons to disperse the protesters as they tried to march to the French Embassy.

The crowd chanted slogans against Charlie Hebdo and Jordanian officials for taking part in the Paris unity march. The Jordanian royal house denounced Charlie Hebdo’s latest front cover, saying publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was “irresponsible and far from the essence of freedom of expression.” King Abdullah and Queen Rania, however, took part in the Paris march in solidarity with the victims of the terror attack.

In Istanbul, about 160 men held funeral prayers Friday to honor the Kouachi brothers. They shouted, “God is great,” and held a banner showing former al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden’s picture on one side and the Kouachi brothers superimposed over the Parisian skyline on the other.

In Sudan, several hundred Muslim worshippers marched briefly after Friday prayers in downtown Khartoum, demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador from the country, chanting they are ready to sacrifice their “blood ad soul to protect” the prophet.

Saudi Arabia’s top council of senior clerics on Friday condemned Charlie Hebdo’s latest depiction of the prophet and said it only serves extremists looking to justify murder and terrorism.

Qatar said it strongly condemned the French weekly’s act and urged Western media “to respect others and their beliefs” and refrain from acts of intolerance and extremism.

In Algeria, more than a thousand protesters gathered in the capital, Algiers, where demonstrations are usually forbidden and chanted “I am not Charlie, I am Muhammad.”

In Iran, Mohammad Ali Movahedi Kermani led prayers in Tehran during which he called Charlie Hebdo’s new cartoon “shocking” and said it had no link to freedom of expression. “This is brazenness, blasphemy, inferiority, malignancy and ignorance,” he said.

The demonstrations in Pakistan against Charlie Hebdo overshadowed smaller rallies held in Islamabad and elsewhere to commemorate the one-month anniversary of the Peshawar school attack. Taliban gunmen stormed a school on Dec. 16, killing 150 people in one of the country’s worst terrorist attacks.

At one of the demonstrations in Islamabad, organizers made reproductions of the coffins as a way to remember the dead. They also called on the government to do more to curb support for militancy and extremism, which many people say has flourished as mosques and religious schools across the country.

“We need to reclaim our mosques. We need to reclaim our public spaces,” said one of the protesters, Rabiya Altaf.