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Afghan Lawmakers Challenge Danish Prophet Cartoon, Dutch Film Criticizing Koran

More than 200 lawmakers shouted "Death to the enemies of Islam" during an angry demonstration outside the Afghan parliament protesting the reprinting of a cartoon of Prophet Muhammad in Denmark and an upcoming Dutch film criticizing the Quran.

The lawmakers from the upper and lower houses of parliament chanted and pounded their fists in the air, urging the Danish and Dutch governments to prevent blasphemy against Islam.

"We want the world community, the U.N. and the Organization of the Islamic Conference to react against these kinds of activities, and not allow any countries to cause such confrontations and dangerous challenges among Muslim communities," lawmaker Mohammad Saleh Suljoqi read from a statement.

Last month in a gesture of solidarity, Denmark's leading newspapers reproduced a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad after Danish police said they had uncovered a plot to kill the artist, whose drawing was one 12 cartoons that sparked deadly riots across the Muslim world in 2006.

The reprinting triggered another wave of protests in Islamic countries in recent weeks.

The Afghan lawmakers were also angered by an upcoming short film by a Dutch lawmaker that reportedly portrays the Quran as a "fascist book."

They demanded that the Afghan Foreign Ministry summon envoys from Denmark and the Netherlands to discuss the matter. They also urged the Danish and Dutch governments to prevent such acts in their countries.

On Monday, Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta told reporters during a visit to Denmark that he respected differences in cultures, but suggested Danish newspapers abused freedom of expression when they reprinted the cartoons three weeks ago.

Spanta said freedom of speech should be used to promote "equality and peace between nations" and to exchange information.

"Freedom of speech must not be used to make a billion Muslims cry," he said.

Afghanistan is a Muslim nation where criticism of Muhammad and the Quran is a serious crime that carries the death sentence.

Tuesday's protest followed a large demonstration Sunday in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif in which clerics and Islamic students burned the Danish and Dutch flags and demanded that the government shut the two countries' embassies in Kabul.