Middle East

Perceived insults to Islam trigger Muslim anger

Islamic Tunisian protesters step on a U.S. flag during a protest outside the outside the U.S. embassy in Tunis, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassene Dridi)

Muslim anger over perceived insults to Islam has exploded several times, most recently in Tuesday’s attacks against diplomatic posts in the Middle East in which U.S. ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

The violence, fueled mostly by religious zealots, reflects the tension between Muslims and the secular West that followed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here are some of the most serious past incidents:

Mohammad cartoonsThe September 2005 publication by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad unleashed a wave of violent protests by Muslims, who believe any image of their religion’s founder is forbidden.

Dozens of people were killed in weeks of protests that included violent attacks against Danish missions in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

The Satanic VersesBritish author Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel, “The Satanic Verses,” inspired in part by the life of the Prophet, won kudos from critics in Britain but prompted outrage among many Muslims.

Deadly riots against the book erupted in Pakistan and India.

Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a religious edict in 1989 calling for Rushdie’s death, leading the writer to live in hiding for a decade.

Although Rushdie was never physically harmed, his Japanese translator was killed in 1991 and his Italian interpreter was injured in a stabbing that same year.

Van Gogh assassination

Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, an outspoken critic of Islam whose film “Submission” criticized the treatment of Muslim women, was shot dead in November 2004 in Netherlands, Amsterdam.

A 26-year-old Dutch citizen of Moroccan origin, Mohammed Bouyeri, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The assassination set off a wave of more than 170 small reprisal attacks against mosques and churches over the following weeks.

“Burn a Quran Day”A 2010 call by Florida preacher Terry Jones to burn Qurans on the ninth anniversary of 9/11 alarmed the U.S. military, which feared the move would endanger the lives of American troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Although Jones called off the burning, thousands of Afghans set fire to tires in the streets of Afghan cities, chanting “Death to America.”

Jones’ congregation went ahead with a Quran burning in March 2011, triggering protests across Afghanistan.

In the most violent protest, hundreds of protesters stormed a U.N. compound in northern Afghanistan, killing seven foreigners.

More Quran burningIn February, U.S. soldiers at Bagram prison in Afghanistan burned 315 copies of the Quran and other religious materials that had been taken from Bagram’s facility library for disposal.

Word of the burning, which the U.S. said was unintentional, triggered scores of anti-American protests across the country, which left more than 30 Afghans and six U.S. soldiers dead.

Six U.S. Army soldiers received unspecified administrative punishment for the burning.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 13, 2012, on page 9.




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