CAIRO: Thousands of Al-Azhar University students demonstrated Monday at their campuses in Cairo and the southern city of Assiut, denouncing the caricatures of Islam s prophet and warning that those who published the drawings have opened the gates of hell on themselves.
The protests at Al-Azhar University, the oldest and most important seat of Sunni Islamic learning, were organized by the Muslim Brotherhood, a religious and political organization that has widespread support in Egypt. Anti-riot police stood at the gates of the two universities but did not interfere.
In Cairo, about 1,500 male students sang religious songs and chanted slogans in defense of Islam in a three-hour protest in which they also called for boycotts of the European countries whose newspapers published the drawings.
Revolution everywhere! We are not going to be silent or asleep! they chanted. Boycott is our duty because they insulted and humiliated our prophet!
At the end of the protest, two students in traditional Al-Azhar garb – long white robes and red turbans – burned the Danish flag.
The students issued a statement warning that those who published the drawings have opened the gates of hell on themselves and forgot that this (Islamic) community might be weakened but it doesn t die.
Two Muslim Brotherhood members recently elected to Parliament addressed the crowd, praising the uprising against and boycotting products of enemy states.
About 3,500 students at Al-Azhar s branch in Assiut, 320 kilometers (200 miles) south of Cairo, gathered to protest, chanting the same slogans as their fellow students in Cairo.
We sacrifice for you, God s Prophet, read one banners raised by the demonstrators.
Islam is widely interpreted to bar images of the revered prophet.
The Muslim world has been outraged by the drawings, first published in a Danish paper last September, then reprinted in European papers in recent weeks in the name of press freedom. Some of the protests have been violent, and the tension has noticeably increased anti-Western dialogue in the Muslim world.
Arab governments, Muslim clerics and newspaper columnists have been urging calm in past days, fearing that recent weeks of violence have only increased anti-Islamic sentiment in the West. They ve asked demonstrators not to attack embassies and to avoid flag-burning and insulting slogans.
The Danish newspaper that first published the drawings has apologized for causing Muslims any offense but the Danish government has said it cannot apologize for something done by its free press.
But in Egypt, the anger against the drawings is unabated. After Friday prayers, thousands demonstrated across Egypt. Cars carrying stickers reading I sacrifice my soul for you, our Prophet Mohammed roam Egyptian streets. At last week s African Cup football matches, fans raised banners reading: We reject insulting our Prophet Mohammed. One of the Egyptian players, Mohamed Aboutrika wore a shirtwith the words: We sacrifice for you, our prophet, during the matches. AP