Many of Friday’s protests took place in areas that do not have a strong insurgent presence and seem to have been spontaneous outbursts of anger. Friday marked the beginning of Eid al-Fitr, the holiest day in the Islamic calendar. Millions of Afghans attended mosques in the morning for services, and the Quran-burning issue was a major topic of discussion.
In the largest mosque in the Qara Bagh district of Kabul, an imam closed his sermon by asking his congregation for suggestions on prayer topics. Some proposed prayers for the poor or the ill, but a number of attendees rose and denounced the Quran-burning, according to witness accounts. Soon many joined in condemnation, and the men poured into the street chanting slogans against the US.
Thousands of others from various mosques in the area joined them over the next few hours, government officials in the area said, and the large group decided to proceed to the nearby Bagram Air Base, a major US military base.
“Today is Eid and we are supposed to be celebrating,” said Khan Agha, a protester. “But defending our religion is much more important. We want to confront the Americans.” The protesters blocked the main highway north of Kabul for nearly three hours, before local officials persuaded them to not approach Bagram.
Protesters largely did not distinguish between the actions of an obscure church and US policy in general.