300 Muslims in Malaysia protest against Charlie Hebdo

Some 300 Muslims staged a protest on Friday against Charlie Hebdo for publishing a caricature of Prophet Muhammad, in the first such protest in Malaysia since the French satirical newspaper was attacked by extremists earlier this month, online news website Malaysiakini reported.

The protestors, who were the members and supporters of the international non-governmental group Hizbut Tahrir, gathered near the French embassy in Kuala Lumpur to hold their demonstration, Malaysiakini said.

Hizbut Tahrir is a loose affiliate of groups around the world which promotes a return of the caliphate to address what they perceive as a lack of unity among Muslims.

Holding banners and posters with slogans such as "Muslim United, our Prophet, Our Honour!", "Charlie's rude" and "Muhammad insulted, rulers should declare jihad!", the protesters congregated at the Tabung Haji Mosque on Jalan Ampang before marching to the embassy some 500 metres away, Malaysiakini reported.

They also shouted slogans like "Long Live Islam! Destroy France!", the report said.

A spokesman for Hizbut Tahrir said they would hand a memorandum to a representative from the French embassy.

Charlie Hebdo, which had attracted controversy by reprinting cartoons of the prophet created by a Danish newspaper, was targeted by two Islamic extremist gunmen in an attack on Jan 7 which killed 12 people, including the weekly's editor and seven other journalists.

The shootings, as well as subsequent hostage-taking around Paris perpetrated by the gunmen and their accomplices, shocked the world.

Charlie Hebdo responded by publishing a "survivors' issue" a week later, with a fresh cartoon of a weeping Prophet Muhammad on its cover.

As well as selling millions of copies around the world, the issue also sparked anti-France demonstrations in several countries, with those in Algeria, Niger and Pakistan turning violent.

seokhwai@sph.com.sg