ISLAMABAD: Muslim protests against insults to the Prophet Mohammad turned violent in Pakistan, where six people were killed today, the Muslim day of prayer, but remained mostly peaceful in Islamic countries elsewhere.
In France, where the publication of cartoons denigrating the Prophet stoked anger over an anti-Islam video made in California, the authorities banned all protests over the issue. "There will be strictly no exceptions. Demonstrations will be banned and broken up," said Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
Many Western and Muslim politicians and clerics have appealed for calm, denouncing those behind the mockery of the Prophet, but also condemning violent reactions to it.
At street level, Muslims enraged by attacks on their faith spoke of a culture war with those in the West who put rights to freedom of expression above any religious offence caused.
"They hate him (the Prophet Mohammad) and show this through their continued works in the West, through their writings, cartoons, films and the way they launch war against him in schools," said Abdessalam Abdullah, a preacher at a mosque in Beirut's Palestinian refugee camp of Bourj al-Barajneh.
Muslims generally consider any depiction of the Prophet blasphemous. Western diplomatic missions in Muslim nations tightened security ahead of Friday prayers. France ordered its embassies, schools and cultural centers to shut in a score of countries.
In Pakistan, tens of thousands of people joined protests encouraged by the government in several cities including Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Multan and Muzaffarabad. The bloodiest unrest erupted in the southern city of Karachi, where three policemen and two protesters were killed and 112 people wounded, according to Allah Bachayo Memon, spokesman of the chief minister of Sindh province.
Security forces fired in the air in Peshawar and the eastern city of Lahore to keep protesters away from US consulates.