Muhammad Cartoons Appear At London Rally

About 200 people held a free-speech demonstration in central London on Saturday, with several carrying posters of the Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that infuriated much of the Muslim world. Protest organizers withdrew their open invitation for the protesters to display the Prophet Muhammad cartoons on Thursday. Peter Risdon, an organizer of the March for Free Expression, initially had announced that he would allow protesters to display banners and wear T-shirts depicting those images. On Thursday, however, Risdon asked demonstrators not to show the cartoons out of fear their display would alienate sympathetic Muslims and give credibility to a far-right political group, the British National Party, which has used the cartoons as a rallying cry. “The principle of freedom of expression is used by some as a Trojan horse, as a proxy for racism and Islamophobia,” Risdon wrote in an explanation on the Web site. The decision prompted angry responses on the Web site – and at the march. “It’s my freedom, everyone’s freedom, to expose these pictures and encourage everyone to do the same,” said Reza Moradi, 29, a protester who identified himself as an Iranian who has lived in Britain for eight years. Moradi was later questioned by police after someone lodged a complaint regarding the “nature of his placard,” which featured a copy of the Danish cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, a London police spokeswoman said. After a brief, heated exchange with officers, Moradi left the protest on his own and then rejoined the demonstration later. Nine bearded men, whom police identified as Muslim counter-protesters, arrived at the protest wearing army fatigues and black-and-white head scarves. They were escorted away by police, but were not detained. “They were told they were free to go wherever they wanted, but because they had scarves covering their faces and they were chanting, officers remained with them,” Metropolitan Police spokesman Jonathan Southgate said. Similar cartoon-related protests in London have died down in recent weeks compared with last month, when one rally drew thousands.