Muslims gather in Tokyo to protest torn Koran

TOKYO, Japan - About 500 Muslims gathered at a Tokyo mosque Friday to hold a protest meeting following the discovery of a damaged Islamic holy text in front of a Pakistani-run business in the Sea of Japan coastal town of Kosugi in Toyama Prefecture on Monday.

Participants of the meeting formulated a protest letter concerning the incident addressed to Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka, which they plan to submit to the ministry.

The letter urges the minister to take the incident seriously and to promise the prevention of a recurrence as well as severe punishment for the Koran vandal, according to the meeting's organizers, a Japan-based Pakistani association.

It also calls for Japan to sustain freedom of faith and respect of a religion.

Muslim followers believe the Koran is more important than their life.

The organizers said that the letter warns that Muslim anger against mistreatment of the holy text should not be considered lightly, citing the 1991 murder of Hitoshi Igarashi, an assistant professor at the University of Tsukuba, who translated Salman Rushdie's controversial novel ''The Satanic Verses,'' which criticized Islamic religion.

According to police investigations, the damaged Koran and leaflets slandering Muslims were found in front of a secondhand car dealership in the town run by 37-year-old Pakistani Ahmed Imtiaz Gondal.

On Tuesday, about 200 Muslim Pakistanis from across the country flocked the town to protest. They visited the Toyama prefectural police headquarters, the prefectural government office and the Kosugi Police Station, requesting that authorities control anti-Islamic movements in the town.

AP-NY-05-25-01 0435EDT

Copyright 2001 The Kyodo News Service.