Widespread protests at denigration of prophet
PROTESTS ARE expected today after noon prayers across the Muslim world against a US-made film denigrating the prophet Muhammad as Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Beirut to preach reconciliation between Christians and Muslims. Reconciliation is, however, not likely at present.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton yesterday called the film “disgusting and reprehensible”, disavowed its message and again condemned the violence in Benghazi during which US ambassador Chris Stevens and three staff members were killed.
But her words are unlikely to placate Muslims demanding an apology, prosecution of the film’s makers and suppression of the film which portrays the prophet as a dim-witted fraudster and womaniser who engaged in brutal and offensive behaviour.
Yemenis broke into the US embassy compound in the capital, Sanaa, smashed windows, torched vehicles, and set fire to the US flag after an influential preacher, Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, called for protests. Security forces fired on demonstrators, diplomats were evacuated, and President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi apologised and blamed “demagogic groups.”
Saudi Arabia condemned the film, extended condolences over the deaths of the diplomats and denounced the film-makers as “irresponsible”. US flags were burned in Tunis, Baghdad and Gaza, where the Hamas government blasted the film.
Several hundred Iranians rallied in Tehran near the Swiss embassy, which handles US interests. Parliament speaker Ali Larijani called the film “abhorrent” and called US profession of respect for different cultures “a blatant lie”. Prevented by security forces from marching on the US embassy in Dhaka, about 1,000 Bangladeshi fundamentalists burned the US flag.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai postponed a trip to Norway and officials blocked the YouTube internet site which has posted a trailer of the film dubbed in Arabic. YouTube halted service to Libya and Egypt.
The visa section of the US consulate in Berlin was evacuated when a strange smell was emitted by an envelope containing a visa application.
In Benghazi, people took to the streets to denounce both the film and Tuesday’s assault on the US consulate, while the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood “vehemently” denounced the violence but said freedom of speech should not be a cover for attacks on religion and called western governments to adopt a tough line against Islamophobes.
The expatriate opposition Syrian National Council expressed distress over the “insults by a group of American bigots” directed at Muhammad but professed shock over the violent reaction.
As US president Barack Obama said he did not consider Egypt an ally or an enemy, police fired tear gas at Egyptians hurling stones and firebombs at the US embassy and calling for the ambassador’s expulsion.