Report By: Nina Rai
Washington, Sept. 21, 2012
Even as U.S. Presidenttook out advertisements in Pakistan in a bid to assuage the anguish of the Muslim community over the now infamous anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims,” enraged protestors hit the streets with renewed vigor from across North Africa to Asia.
The commercials paid by the American government are carried on Pakistani television showing President Obama andpublicly condemning the anti-Prophet film. The advertisements aired over seven channels of Pakistani television cost the U.S taxpayer $70,000 (£43,000) as it tries to soothe the hurt feelings of millions of Muslims over the movie made in California.
Already protests over the film denigrating Prophet Mohammad have claimed more than 30 lives in at least 20 countries, including one attack in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador there along with three other Americans. What could, however, further infuriate the Muslims is the latest California court ruling under which the controversial video clip will not be pulled off YouTube, a site run by the online giant Google.
The 30-second commercial shows President Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton making speeches just after violence erupted last week. Obama, making his stance clear in the advertisement, is shown saying: "Since our founding the United States has been a nation that respects all faiths. We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others."
At the same time, the U.S. President has also hinted that Islamist extremists were manipulating the protests for their own ends. He says: "What we do know is that the natural protests that arose because of the outrage of the video was used as an excuse by extremists to see if they could directly harm U.S. interests."
Hillary Clinton is shown saying in the advertisement: "Let me state very clearly, the United States has absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its contents. America's commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation."
To affirm the authenticity of the clip, the advertisement carries an image of the American seal. U.S. State department stated the seal was there "to make clear its official." The promotional clip also translated into Urdu is expected to be seen by at least 90 million Pakistanis.
Since the commercial is in Pakistan’s interest, some of their television stations have even beamed it free of cost. The film “Innocence of Muslims,” which has rocked the world with violent protests from outraged Muslims, is said to be the handiwork of some radical Christians in America.
While American centers world over have been targeted in the Muslim protests, anti-Western sentiment has been fueled further by cartoons mocking Prophet Muhammad published this week by the satirical French magazine, Charlie Hebdo.
Since the anti-Islam film surfaced virally there has been outrage expressed by the Muslim community with wide-spread protests and demonstrations, which are still underway in the Muslim nations of the world, with fresh ones erupting even as the earlier ones are being reported.
Thursday (Sept. 20), thousands of protesters clashed with police in the Pakistan capital of Islamabad, near a diplomatic enclave. The frenzied activities of the mob left 50 people injured.
As per latest BBC reports, at least 10 people have lost their lives as violent protests erupted on the streets of Pakistan's main cities at the outrage over the anti-Islam film. Hospital authorities inforem that five persons were killed in Karachi, while a further five have died in the north-western city of Peshawar.
The death toll is expected to rise as dozens are reported to be badly wounded, with some of them in critical condition. Meanwhile, Richard Hoagland, the American Charge d'affaires, was summoned to the Pakistan foreign office. An official protest was lodged with him, to which he reportedly replied that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the film.
Nearly 10,000 Muslims in Bangladesh marched on the streets of Dhaka, shouting slogans against the anti-Islam film and the French cartoon mocking their Prophet Muhammed. Many protestors were seen carrying placards and banners which read "Obama, you are a cheater," "Protest the disgrace of Prophet Muhammad!" During the protests they even burnt down an effigy of President Obama, some of them setting the French national flag on fire.
A mock execution of the maker of the film “Innocence of Muslims” was carried outside the Baitul Mokarram mosque, the nation’s largest mosque, after Friday prayers. Security was tightened in the protest area, with hundreds of police and elite Rapid Action Battalion deployed, armed with armored personnel carriers and water cannon.
In the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo, around 2,000 Muslims reportedly held demonstrations protesting against the anti-Islam film which mocked the Muslims’ prophet. Some of them even burnt effigies of President Obama. One of the protesters, Mujibur Rahman, who happened to be the organizer, said Sri Lankan Muslims "have come to the streets today to join with Muslims all over the world" to register their protest against the anti-Islam film.
He even threatened to carry forward the protests if the "U.S. fails to ban this film and arrest its creators." Protesters, who tried to march to the U.S. embassy, were blocked by the police. However, a small group still managed to deliver a message at the diplomatic compound.
Security has been tightened in France after Charlie Hebdo, the French magazine, published cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad, including two drawings depicting him naked. Anticipating trouble, the French authorities declared a ban on street protests, with a crackdown in case the ban was challenged.
It has even shut its embassies, other missions, schools and cultural centres in 20 nations across the Muslim world. The French magazine, meanwhile, was sold out by Wednesday. It is now publishing another 70,000 copies, to coincide with Muslim Friday prayers. According to Charlie Hebdo the cartoons were merely designed to satirize the international uproar over the film, and the cartoons have yet to cause public disorder in France.
However, the cartoons have left the French Muslim community there outraged, with their leaders denouncing the magazine. Mohammed Moussaoui, leader of French Muslim Council considered both the anti-prophet film and the cartoons as "acts of aggression," but appealed to native Muslims not to take to the streets. Leaders have appealed for calm which would be read in mosques across France on Friday.
North Africa – Tunisia, Libya, Palestine and Lebanon
In Tunisia, which is a former French colony, the authorities have banned all demonstrations on Friday. Already in Tunisian social media there have been calls to protest against the satirical caricatures in French magazine. According to Interior Minister of Tunisia Ali Larayedh, some groups were planning violent protests after Friday prayers.
In the Libyan city of Benghazi, where American ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American nationals were killed last week, protests and demonstrations were being planned by rival groups. The Ansar al-Sharia, a jihadist militia which is considered to be behind the embassy attack by the locals, has called for protests "in defence of the Prophet Muhammad."
Throughout the week, the Benghazi residents left wreaths and placards denouncing the attack outside the U.S. mission, which killed the U.S. ambassador. Also among Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, in Lebanon and among Palestinians in the occupied West Bank more protests were planned against the anti-Islam film and offensive French cartoons of their prophet.
In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, around 3,000 Muslims protested in front of the U.S. embassy. One of them even burned an American flag topped with the Jewish Star of David. While there was no violence, enraged protestors declared that they were ready to sacrifice their lives to defend the honor of the Prophet Mohammed, going on to warn that "there will be consequences" over the anti-Islam film.
Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man, an official of the opposition party, Pan Malaysian Islamic Party, which organised the peaceful march, said: "We will not allow the prophet to be insulted. We are willing to sacrifice our lives and property." At the meet, some protesters were seen holding placards which stated that insulting religion was not freedom of speech.
In Indonesia, which has the largest number of Muslims in the world, the community staged anti-French and anti-American demonstrations in Jakarta, the nation’s capital. They gathered to register their protest around the U.S. and French embassies which were shut today amid fears of violence.
Outside the U.S consulate in Medan, North Sumatra, the protesters from the radical Islamic Defenders Front burned the American flag. In Surabaya city, protesters chanted "crush America, crush France" outside the French consulate. The protestors even targeted U.S. fast food chains. They scuffled with the Indonesian police in riot gear outside a McDonald's restaurant in Surabaya. It was their way of showing their anger against the amateur anti-prophet film.
Although India has the world’s third largest Muslim populace, the response to the anti-Islam film has been muted, fortunately. This is largely due to the community heeding the calls of the Muslim leaders who have urged for restraint. Also the swift ban on the anti-Islam film by the Indian government has resulted in protests against the film being sporadic in some cities.
The Muslim religious and political leaders in the country have denounced the anti-Islam film in strong words. What has also greatly helped in maintaining calm among the Muslim community is the simple message from the Muslim religious heads not to resort to violence at any cost.
Opinion: The amateur anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" made by an American Coptic Christian which has denigrated Prophet Mohammad has been condemned by millions across the board, including the Americans and yours truly. There is no denying it is offensive and derogatory to the core. It is insulting the religious sensibilities of the Muslim brethren something which they hold dear to their hearts. The idea of a paid advertisement by the president is a good one to get across his message, but it will help only to an extent to pacify the hurt feelings of Muslims. Other efforts needs to made, along with bringing the persons responsible to book, at the earliest.
The protesters, however, ought to make a clear distinction between the makers of the film, (who were expressing their personal views) and that of the American government. The film does not in any way reflect the views of the American nation and the average American. Since "freedom of speech" is a big deal for Westerners and also many of us around the world, no one can force Google or YouTube to pull down the said video clip in the interests of larger humanity. However, it would help immensely if Google rethink their stand on the matter and come up with an innovative solution to ease the incendiary situation that looks to be spiralling out of control.
It would also help if the French magazine carrying the anti-prophet cartoons would reflect on the issue and stop the publication of additional copies of the satirical cartoons. At the end of the day, every life saved from now onwards would be a gift to humanity from Google and the Charlie Hebdo publication. While freedom of speech is a laudable thing cherished by all of us, it should and must always be tempered by responsibility. How can any freedom of speech be justified if it results in the deaths of people, who have been born and bred on religious/spiritual ideologies and sensibilities?
At the same time, the protesters who are carrying out the demonstrations must also realize that any protest which is based on violence and destruction will not in any way elevate themselves in the eyes of their law giver. Prophet Muhammad himself would not have condoned these acts of violent protests carried out in his name. Taking a cue from my nation, it would behoove the protesters to drop the path of expressing their outrage in a violent manner.
Hate for hate does not win the day. It is love and calmness of spirit in response to hate, that can help to calm the troubled waters of humanity. So here is an sincere appeal to our anguished Muslim brothers and sisters across the world. Please eschew the path of violent protests. Put across your distress and pain in a calm, strong and forceful manner to achieve the best results. Better still, try to extend your hands in universal brotherhood and forgiveness to those who have erred.
Sources/References: Sky News, BBC, National Turk, Emirates, VOA
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