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Protests against film spread in Mideast; 1 killed

By Lee Keath

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Sept. 14 2012 9:02 a.m. MDT

Bahrainis burn replicas of American and Israeli flags during a protest after midday prayers in Diraz, Bahrain, Friday, Sept. 14, 2012, as part of widespread anger across the Muslim world about a film ridiculing Islam's Prophet Muhammad.

Hasan Jamali, Associated Press

CAIRO — Angry demonstrations against an anti-Islam film spread to their widest extent yet around the Middle East and other Muslim countries Friday. Protesters smashed into the German Embassy in the Sudanese capital and set part of it on fire and climbed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Tunis, waving an Islamist banner.

One protester was killed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in clashes with security forces, after a crowd of protesters set fire to a KFC and an Arby's restaurant. Protesters hurled stones and glass at police in a furious melee that left 25 people wounded, 18 of them police.

Protests were held in cities from Tunisia to Pakistan after weekly Friday Muslim prayers, where many clerics in their mosque sermons called on congregations to defend their faith, denouncing obscure movie produced in the United States that denigrated the Prophet Muhammad.

The numbers were not huge — in most places, only a few hundred took to the streets, mostly ultraconservative Islamists — but the mood was often furious. The spread of protests comes after attacks earlier this week on the U.S. Embassies in Cairo and the Yemeni capital Sanaa and on a U.S. consulate in Libya, where the ambassador and three other Americans were killed.

After standing aside earlier this week in the face of protesters, security forces in Yemen and Egypt fired tear gas and clashed with protesters Friday to keep them away from U.S. embassies.

Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, went on state TV and urged Muslims to protect foreign diplomatic missions — his first direct public move to contain protests.

"It is required by our religion to protect our guests and their homes and places of work," he said. He also condemned the killing of the American ambassador in Libya, saying it was unacceptable in Islam. "To God, attacking a person is bigger than an attack on the Kaaba," he said, referring to Islam's holiest site in Mecca.

His speech was an apparent attempt to repair strained relations with the United States, which was angered by his slow response to Tuesday night's assault on the embassy in Cairo. Police did nothing to stop protesters from climbing over the embassy walls, and Morsi was largely silent about the breaching for days afterward.

Ahead of the expected wave of protests on Friday — a tradition day for rallies in the Islamic world — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered an explicit denunciation of the anti-Muhammad video, aiming to pre-empt further turmoil at its embassies and consulates. The movie, called "Innocence of Muslims," ridicules the Prophet Muhammad, portraying him as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.

"The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video," she said before a meeting with the foreign minister of Morocco at the State Department. "We absolutely reject its content and message."

"To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible," Clinton said. "It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage."

Nonetheless, protests in several places attempted to move on American diplomatic missions — and other Western countries were pulled into the dispute.

Several thousand demonstrators protested outside the US embassy in Tunis and battled with security forces, throwing stones as police fired volleys of tear gas and shot in the air. Some protesters scaled the embassy wall and stood on top of it, planting a black flag with the Islamic profession of faith, "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet."

Police chased them off the wall and took the flag down.

In Sudan, a prominent sheik on state radio urged protesters to march on the German Embassy to protest alleged anti-Muslim graffiti on mosques in Berlin and then to the U.S. Embassy to protest the film.

"America has long been an enemy to Islam and to Sudan," Sheik Mohammed Jizouly said.

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