Muslim nations swept by anti-West rallies over film
Pakistani protesters hold a banner saying, ‘Freedom of expression, go to hell,’ referring to an anti-Islam film. EPA photoAt least 15 people were killed in Pakistan on Sept. 21 amid a fiery day of rage as Muslims directed their anger against a U.S.-made anti-Islam film, as well as a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad in a French magazine.
Western missions shut in Pakistan, as across the Islamic world, fearing further escalation of a 10-day violent backlash over the low-budget film “Innocence of Muslims” which insults Islam and the Prophet Muhammad and was spread via a video clip on YouTube. France, where the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo this week published a series of cartoons mocking the Prophet, shut diplomatic missions and schools in 20 Muslim countries.
Clashes broke out in Pakistan’s five largest cities, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 100 others, Agence France-Presse reported. Witnesses estimated that nationwide rallies mobilized more than 45,000. Arsonists and looters attacked cinemas, banks, shops and restaurants in Karachi.
In Karachi, 12 people died, including a policeman who was shot by unknown people near the U.S. consulate, and three people were killed in Peshawar. The government had declared Sept. 21 a national holiday, naming it as “the day of the love for the prophet,” but for hours shut down mobile telephone networks for “security reasons.”
There were demonstrations across Asia in Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Bangladesh, where about 10,000 took to the streets of Dhaka to condemn the film and the French cartoons.
In Tehran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the repeated insistence of U.S. officials that the administration had nothing to do with the low-budget movie.
In Iraq, about 3,000 people protested against the film and caricatures in the southern city of Basra. Lebanese Muslims took part in protests to vent their anger over the film and French cartoons.
Hundreds of Yemenis also protested, chanting “Death to America, death to Israel,” as they tried to march on the U.S. embassy in Sanaa, but security forces used armored vehicles and water cannon to stop them. The protesters demanded “the departure of the U.S. ambassador and foreign forces in Yemen,” in reference to 50 Marines sent last week to protect the embassy.
Some 200 Moroccans protested outside a mosque in Rabat’s twin city of Sale after weekly prayers, chanting anti-U.S. slogans and denouncing U.S. President Barack Obama.
Ghannouchi vows to crack down on hard-line Salafis
Meanwhile, the veteran leader of Tunisia’s ruling Islamist party said the authorities would crack down on hard-line Salafis after deadly violence around the U.S. embassy, saying they posed a threat to the country’s freedoms and security.
“Each time that parties or groups overstep our freedoms in a flagrant manner, we have to be tough, clamp down and insist on public order,” Ennahda chief Rached Ghannouchi told Agence France-Presse in an interview.
“These people pose a threat not only to Ennahda but to the country’s freedoms and security.”
Ghannouchi denied that the Ennahda-led coalition government had been lax in its failure so far to arrest Salafi leader Seif Allah ibn Hussein, suspected of organizing the violent protest on Sept. 14 at the U.S. embassy and adjacent American school in Tunis.
Ibn Hussein, who heads the extremist Ansar al-Sharia movement, preached at the al-Fatah mosque
in the heart of the capital on Sept. 17 surrounded by his followers before leaving.