Leading Danish imam urges youth to stop rioting
A prominent Danish imam urged rioting youth to stop setting fires and hurling rocks at police after a fifth consecutive night of vandalism in Copenhagen and other Danish cities.
Youth violence has marred immigrant neighborhoods in Copenhagen and other Danish cities all week, and some believe they intensified with the reproduction of a Prophet Muhammad cartoon in Danish newspapers Wednesday.
"Please stop what you're doing," Imam Mostafa Chendid, the leader of the Islamic Faith Community, said in an address to young people during Friday's prayer.
"The prophet has not taught you to burn down schools, or burn cars or infrastructure. Muhammad has taught us civilization," Chendid said.
A few hundred Muslims attended the prayer in a Copenhagen mosque, which serves as the headquarters of an Islamic organization that led protests against Danish newspaper cartoons of Muhammad in 2006.
Chendid called the cartoons "harmful," but said any protests against them must be peaceful.
One of the 12 prophet drawings, which sparked massive protests in Muslim countries in 2006, was reprinted in Danish newspapers Wednesday after police foiled an alleged plot to kill the artist who created it.
The papers said the reproduction was a statement for free speech, but it was seen as offensive by many Muslims because Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.
Hundreds of people rallied Friday in various parts of Pakistan against the cartoon, setting fire to Danish flags and demanding the Danish ambassador's expulsion. Iran summoned Denmark's ambassador on Wednesday to protest the newspapers' decision to print the drawing.
In Copenhagen, about 800 people protested peacefully Friday in a march organized by the radical Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Nine youths were arrested overnight Friday in Copenhagen, six of whom faced preliminary charges for throwing rocks at police officers, police said Friday. There were no reports of injuries.
Police said they were not sure what triggered the unrest. Some observers said immigrant youths were protesting against perceived police harassment, and suggested the reprinting of the cartoon may have aggravated the situation.
Firefighters responded to dozens of fires in and around the capital where 11 cars were burned. About 10 cars were torched in Kokkedal, north of Copenhagen, while a school in Bagsvaerd, west of the city, was partly destroyed in a presumed arson, police said.
In some cases, firefighters said they were hindered from putting out the fires by rock-throwing youths.
There were also reports of fires and vandalism in other Danish cities, including Aarhus, Ringsted and Slagelse. No arrests were made in those cities.
1) Leading Danish imam urges youth to stop rioting