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Muslims Across World Protest Koran Reports

From Associated Press

Muslims spat on the American flag, threw tomatoes at a picture of President Bush and burned the U.S. Constitution in protests Friday from Egypt to Indonesia over the alleged desecration of Islam’s holy book at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Waving copies of the Koran, many of the thousands of demonstrators across the Middle East and Asia chanted anti-U.S. slogans and demanded an apology from the United States, as well as punishment for those who had treated the book with disrespect at the U.S. lockup in Cuba.

U.S. investigators admitted Thursday that the Koran had been mishandled, but they contend it was mostly inadvertent and deny that a copy was put in a toilet. Friday’s protests were organized before the officials’ comments in Washington.

Many Muslims were outraged by a report in Newsweek’s May 9 issue that interrogators at Guantanamo flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet to get inmates to talk. The article -- later retracted -- sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan.

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“The defilement of our holy book is outrageous because we consider it to be the word of God,” said Asiya Andrabi, head of Daughters of the Community and one of about 50 Muslim women in veils who marched through Srinagar, in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir.

Police watched many of the rallies, which were mostly peaceful.

In the Egyptian city of Alexandria, about 12,000 people, some followers of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, filled a three-story building and spilled onto surrounding streets, which were sealed off by riot and street police. Through megaphones, speakers called on the government and Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, grand imam of Al Azhar Mosque, the Sunni Muslim world’s most prestigious seat of learning, to demand an apology from the United States.

In the Lebanese capital, Beirut, about 1,000 demonstrators burned American and Israeli flags and held black banners with the inscription “There is no god but God, Muhammad is God’s messenger.”

The protests also spread to Sudan, where thousands gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and called for a serious investigation into all violations against Muslim detainees held at Guantanamo.

More than 15,000 people marched in protests throughout Pakistan, including in the cities of Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta and Lahore.

The protest in Islamabad, the capital, began in a tense atmosphere hours after a bomb at a Muslim shrine killed at least 19 people.

“It’s time for Muslims to unite,” Qazi Hussain Ahmed, head of a religious alliance that organized many of the rallies, told a crowd of more than 5,000 watched by heavy security. “We have been given a challenge.”

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About 5,000 protesters marched in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and some of them spat on, kicked and burned the U.S. flag. Others shouted “Death to America!” as they held copies of the Koran above their heads.

In Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, about 50 protesters in the capital, Jakarta, pelted a portrait of Bush with tomatoes.

Hundreds of people in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, shouted and burned U.S. and Israeli flags outside the U.S. Embassy. The crowd dispersed peacefully after handing a memorandum to embassy officials.


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