Islamic Groups Planning Worldwide Anti-US Protests

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:16 PM EDT

Pacific Rim Bureau ( - Radical Islamic groups are pressing ahead with plans for worldwide anti-U.S. protests later this week. A demonstration in Indonesia Sunday indicated the level of anger directed towards America over Koran abuse allegations.

"Destroy America and its allies," Indonesian extremist leader Muhammad Iqbal told a rally outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, using a public address system to address the crowd. "Kill those who desecrate Islam."

An estimated 7,000 Muslims protested in the Indonesian capital, a gathering that drew several dozen Islamic organizations, including the mainstream "moderate" groups Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, each of which claims millions of members.

Iqbal called President Bush and his allies "infidels" (unbelievers), while other speakers also called for war.

Iqbal represents the Majelis Mujahedin Indonesia (Indonesian Mujahedin Council, or MMI), an umbrella group of radicals pushing for the adoption of Islamic law in the world's largest Muslim country.

MMI is led by imprisoned cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, who is serving a 30-month jail sentence for his role in one of the deadliest terrorist attacks since 9/11 - the Oct. 2002 bombing in Bali which killed 202 people.

Sunday's rally was the latest protest in the Muslim world organized in response to a May 9 Newsweek report charging that U.S. interrogators had thrown a Koran into a toilet, in an effort to rattle Muslim terror suspects being held at the military base in at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The report unleashed rioting in Afghanistan, where at least 14 people were killed in clashes with security forces.

Newsweek later retracted the story, and the Pentagon said investigations had found no evidence to support the claim. But the Koran-flushing allegation has become a rallying-point for Muslims riled by U.S. foreign policies.

Spearheaded by an alliance of fundamentalist parties in Pakistan, the campaign has won the support of at least 44 Islamic groups around the world, the radical Mutahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) alliance said at the weekend.

They will hold protests in their respective countries on Friday May 27, the group said, predicting that a planned protest in the Pakistani capital would draw one hundred thousand Koran-toting Muslims.

At a weekend convention of senior clerics in Islamabad, leaders renewed demands for Bush to publicly apologize to Muslims, described the U.S. as a terrorist nation, condemned President Pervez Musharraf for cooperating with the U.S., and called for a boycott of American goods and the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador.

MMA head Qazi Hussain Ahmed called on Muslims to put aside any political differences and unify around the Koran issue, to "achieve their lost glory."

He also warned that members of non-Muslim minorities should not be targeted during the protests.

Many media outlets in the Muslim world continue to report on Newsweek's allegations of Koran desecration at Guantanamo Bay, but without making reference to the magazine's subsequent retraction.

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow