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Protests sweep W Asia over Quran burning in Sweden, the Netherlands

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Beirut: Protests were held on Friday in several predominantly Muslim countries to denounce the recent desecration of the Quran by far-right activists in Sweden and the Netherlands.
The protests in countries including Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon ended with people dispersing peacefully. In Islamabad, police officers stopped some demonstrators trying to march towards the Swedish embassy.
About 12,000 members of the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party rallied in Lahore to denounce the desecration of the Quran in the two European countries. In his speech to the demonstrators, Saad Rizvi, the head of TLP, asked the government to lodge a strong protest with Sweden and the Netherlands. Similar rallies were also held in Karachi and in northwest Pakistan. Friday’s rallies dispersed peacefully.
In Beirut, 200 angry protesters burned the flags of Sweden and the Netherlands outside the blue-domed Mohammed Al-Amin mosque at Beirut’s central Martyrs’ Square.
Earlier this month, a far-right activist from Denmark received permission from police to stage a protest outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm where he burned the Quran. Days later, Edwin Wagensveld, Dutch leader of the far-right Pegida movement in the Netherlands, tore pages out of a copy of the Quran near the Dutch parliament and stomped on them. The moves angered millions of Muslims around the world and triggered protests.
Swedish officials have stressed that freedom of expression is guaranteed by the Swedish Constitution and gives people extensive rights to express their views publicly.
Iraq’s powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr asked in comments released on Friday whether freedom of speech means offending other people’s beliefs. He asked why “doesn’t the burning of the gays’ rainbow flag represent freedom of expression.” The cleric added that burning the Quran “will bring divine anger.” Hundreds of his supporters gathered outside a mosque in Baghdad waving copies of the Quran. AP


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