Muslims protest against prophet cartoons in Sri Lanka

Thousands of Muslims trampled on a large Danish flag spread outside the entrance of one of Sri Lanka's main mosques on Friday to protest caricatures of Prophet Muhammad that first appeared in a Danish newspaper.

Following Friday prayers, the demonstrators, wearing black headbands and shouting slogans, burned several Danish flags as police and armed troops stood guard around the mosque in the capital, Colombo. No violence was reported.

The protesters carried posters reading, "Freedom is not to insult Muslims," and "Don't ridicule our faith, press freedom in the gutter."

"In the guise of media freedom, they are insulting the feelings of Muslims," Rauff Hakeem, a member of Parliament who joined the demonstrators, said of newspapers that published the cartoons. "Such things should be stopped forthwith."

Earlier, a large Danish flag was spread on the ground at the entrance to the mosque so that everyone who entered for Friday prayers walked over it.

The drawings, first published in September in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten newspaper and later republished by a handful of other papers in Europe and elsewhere, have triggered fury across the Muslim world, with demonstrations and boycotts of Danish products.

Sri Lanka's 1.3 million Muslims are the country's second-largest minority after ethnic Tamils, who are mainly Hindu. The 14 million Sinhalese majority are mainly Buddhists, reports the AP.

I.L.

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