Muslims protest on Whitehall against Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Prophet Mohamed

The demonstrators congregated on Whitehall, near 10 Downing Street

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The Independent Online

Thousands of British Muslims gathered near Downing Street yesterday to protest against the publication of “insulting” cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohamed.

Demonstrators said recent cartoons and drawings of the prophet published by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo and other publishers is a "stark reminder" that freedom of speech is “regularly utilised to insult personalities that others consider sacred".

The Muslim Action Forum – which organised the peaceful rally on Whitehall – also expressed “deep regret” at the Paris terror attacks, in which 17 people were massacred at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine and a separate attack on a kosher supermarket.

MAF said the murders by gunmen claiming they were avenging the prophet were a “violation of Islamic law”.

britain-first-muslims-protest-london-3.jpg Britain First members, including leader Paul Golding, were also in attendance. They stood behind a huge banner for their nationalist party and chanted at Muslims in a counter-demonstration while police officers watched over.

The protest took place as a leading academic said that the religion in Britain will be “black and brown” as Islam and newer forms of Christianity overhaul the Church of England.

 

David Voas, professor of population studies at the University of Essex, told the Times that white British people are losing their taste for worship, in contrast to the UK’s expanding population of ethnic minorities.

Outside Downing Street, protesters held banners and signs with the words “Charlie and the abuse factory” and “learn some manners”on them.

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A Britain First member being watched over by police officers

Other signs echoed the sentiments of the Pope who said he understood why people were angry with the cartoons insulting the prophet, as those who offended his mother could “expect a punch”.

Scores of attendees took to praying on the street en masse while a number of speakers addressed the crowd. Representatives from the MAF delivered a petition signed by more than 100,000 British Muslims to 10 Downing Street.

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Dozens of Muslims pray on the street during the protest

The petition calls for “global civility” and says the production of cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed, as well as violence and murder in response to them are “an affront to the norms of civilised society”.

Shaykh Tauqir Ishaq, a senior spokesman for the MAF, said “perpetual mistakes by extremists, either by cold-blooded killers or uncivilised expressionists, cannot be the way forward for a civilised society.

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Protesters arrived in coaches from all parts of the UK

“The peace-loving majority of people must become vociferous in promoting global civility and responsible debate. At this time of heightened tension and emotion, it is crucial that both sides show restraint to prevent further incidents of this nature occurring.”

Shaykh Noor Siddiqi, another MAF representative, said: “The actions of the UK media in not publishing the cartoons is highly appreciated by British Muslims and we hope that this kind of self-restraint and mutual respect will ultimately lead to a harmonious society.”

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