A Pakistani cleric announced on Friday a $1 million reward for whoever kills the cartoonist who drew the controversial Muhammad cartoons that sparked raging protests numbering in the thousands.
Prayer leader Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi in the northwestern Pakistan city of Peshawar announced the bounty for killing the cartoonist to about 1,000 people outside the Mohabat Khan Mosque, reported the Associated Press.
"This is a unanimous decision by all imams (prayer leaders) of Islam that whoever insults the prophet deserves to be killed and whoever will take this insulting man to his end, will get this prize," Qureshi said, according to AP.
The Muslim religious leader said that whoever kills the "cursed man" will get $1 million dollars from the association of the jewelers bazaar, one million rupees ($16,700) from Masjid Mohabat Khan and 500,000 rupees ($8,350) and a car from Jamia Ashrafia as a reward. No one from the association was available to confirm the offer to AP.
According to the news agency, Qureshi did not name any cartoonist in his announcement and he “did not appear aware that 12 different people have drawn the pictures.”
The cartoons, which were first printed by the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, last September sparked massive protests worldwide in recent weeks after they were reprinted in European media and elsewhere. One of the cartoons depicts Muhammad wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with an ignited fuse. Muslims consider any depiction of Allah and their prophets to be blasphemy.
In a recently distributed prayer bulletin, the Religious Liberty Commission of the World Evangelical Alliance questioned the driving force behind the recent protests, noting that the 12 re-published cartoons of Muhammad are not the first time Islam’s most revered prophet had been depicted.
“… As this is not the first time Muhammad has appeared in art – even offensive cartoon art – why this uprising now?” questioned the RLC in its Feb. 15 Religious Liberty Bulletin. It noted that “there are multitudes of pictures of Muhammad in the world: in text books, history books, art works, and even cartoons.”
The RLC suggested that the present “cartoon intifada” was the incited by Islamic clerics, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).
“It is in essence an intifada against Western press freedoms and reluctance to honor Islamic standards, along with implicit demands for special protection and concessions for Islam,” the WEA Commission stated.
According to intelligence officials, members of radical and militant Islamic groups, such as Jamaat al-Dawat, joined the riot in Lahore on Tuesday and incited violence.
There was about 7,000 protestors in Rawalpindi, 5,000 in the southwestern city of Quetta and 5,000 in Karachi.
As violent protest continue to rage, the Denmark government has decided to temporarily close its embassy in Pakistan and advised its citizens to leave the country.
Denmark has already temporarily closed its embassies in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, and Indonesia following anti-Danish protests and threats against staff.