"OIC member-states expect from the EU to identify Islamophobia as a dangerous phenomenon and observe and combat it like in the cases of xenophobia and anti-Semitism," the pan-Islamic organisation said on Saturday, after the publishing of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in European press.

It suggested "creating suitable observance mechanisms and revising its [EU's] legislation, in order to prevent the recurrence of the recent unfortunate incidents in the future".

More than 7000 Muslims marched through Paris on Saturday in protest against French newspapers that published cartoons of Prophet Muhammad.
 
Marchers chanted prayers in Arabic, including "God is great!" One banner read: "When you attack religion, it's us you are attacking." Others said "No to Islamophobia" and "French Muslims have the right to be respected".
 
Five papers

Five French newspapers have reprinted caricatures of the prophet that first appeared in Denmark: dailies France Soir, Liberation, Le Figaro and Le Parisien, as well as satirical weekly Charlie-Hebdo.

At a similar protest in the eastern city of Strasbourg, Muslims stamped on Danish flags and dragged them on the ground, chanting "Stop insulting us". The rally, organised by Mohamed Latreche, leader of the small, radical Party of Muslims of France, drew about 1000 people, fewer than expected.

France has a Muslim population of around five million - the largest in western Europe.

In London, up to 4000 demonstrators converged on Trafalgar Square on Saturday, joining Ken Livingstone, the mayor, in a protest against the publication of the cartoons.

Protests against the cartoons
have swept the Muslim world

In marked contrast to angry demonstrations outside the Danish embassy in the British capital last week, the protest was good-natured and there was no sign of the extreme anti-Western placards brandished at the embassy protest.

About 2500 Muslims marched peacefully through the German city of Dusseldorf, past the Danish consulate, and in Berlin about 1200 gathered outside the Danish embassy.

Some 200 Muslims shouting "God is great" staged a demonstration in Melilla, Spain, on Saturday against publication of the caricatures, the first such protests in the country.
 
Melilla is a city of 65,000 on Morocco's northern coast and claimed by the Rabat government. The population is 40% Muslim.

A similar rally that drew about 50 people was held in the Basque city of Bilbao.

Swiss protest

About 1000 Swiss Muslims protested on Saturday against the publication of the caricatures with banners and speeches on the main square of the capital, Bern.

The protesters gathered peacefully and recited parts of the Quran in Arabic, police said. Many police officers monitored the rally but there was no violence.

Activists of Pakistan's religious
parties held a rally on Saturday

Nicolas Blancho, one of the organisers, said: "We want to express that it shouldn't carry on like this." He said the publication of the cartoons had offended Muslims worldwide.

Canadians also took to the streets in Montreal on Saturday to protest against the cartoons, the country's first such demonstration.

Imam Said Jaziri said demonstrators had originally planned to march to the Danish embassy but decided against that destination to avoid any untoward incidents.

About 500 people gathered in the capital of Quebec province, some carrying banners reading "No to insulting our prophets Mohammed, Jesus, Moses" and "No to violence" in Arabic, English and French.

About 200 Muslims rallied on Saturday outside the offices of The Philadelphia Inquirer in Philadelphia, US, to express their anger over the newspaper's decision to reprint a cartoon that many feel insults Islam.
 
Poor excuse

While acknowledging the paper had a legal right to publish the image of Prophet Muhammad, protesters said that was a poor excuse for denigrating their religion.

Mahmood Siddique, 50, said: "It was done knowing that it was against the wishes of the Muslim people. It was done in bad taste in the name of freedom of speech."

"We want to express that it shouldn't carry on like this"

Nicolas Blancho,
Switzerland rally organiser

Amanda Bennett, editor of the Inquirer, attended the peaceful rally. She walked through the crowd talking to protesters, in some cases defending the paper's decision.

Also on Saturday, Pakistan's ruling party and Islamic groups issued a joint call to hold a nationwide strike on 3 March to condemn the cartoons' publications.

The leaders of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League party and a six-party coalition of religious groups also urged people to boycott the products of those countries where the cartoons have been printed.

Schedule of rallies

The groups announced a schedule for rallies across the country, including one in Islamabad on 19 February, to pressurise countries to take action against newspapers that published several blasphemous caricatures.

Another rally will be held in the eastern city of Lahore on 26 February, the groups said in a statement, which did not provide details about which businesses should close during the strike.

The plans were announced by Qazi Hussain Ahmad, head of a six-party alliance, after presiding over a meeting also attended by moderate political leaders.