Muslim groups protest publication of Muhammad caricatures at Paris demonstration

More than 7,000 Muslims marched through Paris Saturday to protest French newspapers that published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, with some demonstrators holding up copies of the Quran.

Marchers chanted prayers in Arabic, including "God is great!" One banner read: "When you attack religion, it's us you are attacking." Others said, "No to Islamophobia" and "French Muslims have the right to be respected."

Five French newspapers have reprinted caricatures of the prophet that first appeared in Denmark: dailies France Soir, Liberation, Le Figaro and Le Parisien, as well as satirical weekly Charlie-Hebdo. One of the Danish caricatures showed Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb.

At a similar protest in the eastern city of Strasbourg, Muslims stomped on Danish flags and dragged them on the ground, chanting "Stop insulting us." The rally, organized by Mohamed Latreche, leader of the small, radical Party of Muslims of France, drew about 1,000 people, fewer than expected.

France has a Muslim population of around 5 million  the largest in western Europe. President Jacques Chirac has had to tread carefully during the uproar over the caricatures, expressing support for freedom of the press while urging newspapers not to offend the convictions of France's largest religious minority.

The demonstration in Paris was organized by Muslim associations from the suburban Seine-Saint-Denis region north of the capital the impoverished area that was the epicenter of this fall's rioting and arson attacks. The protest Saturday was calm, and the police presence was discreet.

Police said there were just over 7,000 demonstrators, while organizers put the figure at more than 10,000. M'hammed Henniche, head of the Union of Muslim Associations of Seine-Saint-Denis, said in a closing speech that his group would propose a law against Islamophobia, reports AP.


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