Muslims in Philippines march against Charlie Hebdo

MANILA (AFP) - Around 1,500 people protested in one of the Philippines' main Muslim-majority cities on Wednesday against the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo's caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, police said.

Local politicians, teenaged students and women with veils covering their faces packed the main square in Marawi in the southern Philippines, some raising their fists in the air as a Charlie Hebdo poster was burnt.

"What had happened in France, the Charlie Hebdo killing, is a moral lesson for the world to respect any kind of religion, especially the religion of Islam," organisers said in a statement released during the three-hour rally.

"Freedom of expression does not extend to insulting the noble and the greatest prophet of Allah."

A group calling itself "Boses ng Masa", or Voice of the Masses organised the rally, which attracted about 1,500 people, Marawi police officer Esmail Biso told AFP.

He said non-government organisations and a local school owner were behind the group.

Twelve people including eight Charlie Hebdo cartoonists and journalists and two police officers were killed last week after Islamist militants struck the magazine's Paris office, in an attack that has sparked outrage worldwide.

The attacks triggered giant rallies in support of Charlie Hebdo's victims and the right to publish images of Mohammed, which is deemed blasphemous for Muslims.

The protest in the Philippines was one of first reported worldwide since the violence to express outrage at Charlie Hebdo.

The protesters carried streamers in with the words "You are Charlie" written in French, in response to the "I am Charlie" cry of those who condemned the attack.

One of the streamers read: "France must apologise", while another read: "You mock our Prophet, now you want an apology?"

Muslims are a minority in the predominantly Catholic Philippines, with most living in remote southern regions they regard as their ancestral homeland.

The nation's biggest Muslim rebel group signed a peace deal with the government in 2013, ending decades of fighting for an independent state.

However, other Islamic militant groups operate in the south, some of whom have had backing from Al-Qaeda or pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group.

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