U.S. Mohammad sculpture sparks Kashmir protests

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V.C.Vijayaraghavan

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Mar 14, 1997, 3:00:00 AM3/14/97
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Subject: U.S. Mohammad sculpture sparks Kashmir protests
Organization: Copyright 1997 by Reuters
Date: Thu, 13 Mar 1997 4:34:13 PST


SRINAGAR, India, March 13 (Reuter) - Indian police on
Thursday used tear gas and batons to disperse Moslem
demonstrators protesting against a U.S. Supreme Court decision
to retain a controversial depiction of the Prophet Mohammad.
Police fired shots in the air and used batons and tear gas
on protesters who attacked a police patrol in Srinagar, summer
capital of India's mostly Moslem Jammu and Kashmir state, police
said.
They said more than a dozen demonstrators were injured in
the clash in the Batamaloo neighbourhood.
Elsewhere in the city, demonstrators set tyres on fire.
``More than a dozen stone-pelting incidents were reported
from (neighbourhoods in) Srinagar,'' a police spokesman said.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a request by a
coalition of Moslem groups to remove a 66-year-old depiction of
Islam's Prophet Mohammad sculpted in marble inside its
courtroom.
The group wanted the depiction sandblasted off because
orthodox Islamic tradition discourages artistic renderings of
living people, and portraying the Prophet's face is considered
particularly offensive.
The sculpture, on the courtroom's wall, shows a number of
great lawmakers throughout history.
Shops, businesses and colleges in Srinagar were closed in
protest against the decision.
Moslem students in Kashmir on Wednesday shouted
anti-American slogans and protested against what they called
``an imaginary portrait of the Prophet Mohammad in an American
court building.'' At least 14 students were arrested, police
said.
U.S. Chief Justice William Rehnquist had rejected a request
to remove the sculpture, saying: ``The depiction of Mohammad was
intended only to recognise him, among many other lawgivers, as
an important figure in the history of law; it is not intended as
a form of idol worship.''
``It is part of an architectural and aesthetic unit that has
been in place more than 60 years. Altering the depiction of
Mohammad would impair the artistic integrity of the whole.''

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