Anti-film protest in Nigeria

2012-09-23 12:32
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Kano -Tens of thousands of people on Saturday protested in Nigeria's second city of Kano, burning images of Barack Obama and stomping on the American flag to denounce an anti-Islam film made in the US.

A crowd that included men, children and veiled women stretched for several kilometres through the city, the largest in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north, condemning the film that has stirred outrage across the Muslim world.

They shouted "death to America, death to Israel and death to the enemies of Islam," in a rally that ended with no reported incidents of violence but caused gridlock in the city of roughly 4.5 million people.

The demonstration was organised by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a pro-Iranian group that adheres to the Shi'ite branch of Islam. The group has operated in Africa's most populous country since the late 1970s.

"We are out today to express our rage and disapproval over this blasphemous film," said Muhammed Turi, a protest leader and member of the Islamic Movement which organised a similar rally earlier this week in the northern city of Zaria.

Flags defaced

Some pictures of US President Barack Obama were set alight, while others were dragged through the dirt and stomped on by protesters shouting "enemy of Islam."

American and Israeli flags were also defaced and Iranian flags were waved in the air as the group marched towards a palace owned by the Emir of Kano, the top religious figure in the region.

Protester Husseini Ibrahim claimed that the "blasphemy" in the film regarding the Prophet Muhammad is "like an invitation to war."

Hundreds of residents who did not join the march lined the streets to watch the protesters move past.

A 68-year-old beggar, who gave his name as Garba, tried to join the rally but was unable to stay on his feet, despite the use of a walking stick.

"I wish I could do more than this. I wish I were young enough to join the procession. I will do anything for the prophet," he said.

Crowd addressed

Turi addressed the crowd outside Kano's central mosque, adjacent to the Emir's palace.

"We are pained by this deliberate insult against our religion under the pretext of freedom of expression," he told the protesters.

Security forces were deployed around the city and a police officer stationed outside a hospital said the authorities had allowed the demonstration.

"We have no problem with the protest as long as it is peaceful," said the officer who requested anonymity.

Turi also urged Nigeria's government to publicly denounce the film and said all ties with Israel should be severed.

The low-budget film Innocence of Muslims was reportedly produced by an Egyptian Coptic Christian, but rumours that circulated shortly after its release suggested an Israeli was involved.

Anti-American sentiment

The film incited a wave of bloody anti-American violence in cities across the Muslim world, with protests occurring in more than 20 countries. Violence in Pakistan on Friday left at least 21 people dead.

Thousands of Muslims protested in Nigeria's Zaria on Thursday.

The previous week in the religiously divided central Nigerian city of Jos, soldiers fired live rounds outside a mosque to disperse a crowd of several hundred that was seeking to demonstrate against the film.

Read more on:    nigeria  |  prophet protests  |  west africa  |  religion
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