West's outrage collides with Muslim anger

2012-09-12 22:19
Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the US embassy in Cairo, Egypt. (AP)

Protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the US embassy in Cairo, Egypt. (AP)

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Paris - Western countries expressed outrage on Wednesday at a mob attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya while Muslim nations denounced the anti-Islam film that has sparked unrest and demonstrations.

US President Barack Obama strongly condemned the "outrageous" and "senseless" attack on the consulate in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American officials.

But Western condemnation of the killings collided with growing anger in the Muslim world over online clips of the low-budget film that sparked the consulate attack, which pokes fun at the Prophet Muhammad and touches on paedophilia and homosexuality.

Obama said the United States "rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others", but also mourned the killing of four Americans as a "terrible act" and pledged that those responsible would be brought to justice.

Contrast


"Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers," Obama said.

"They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives."

In Egypt, where a protest over the film also turned violent on Tuesday as thousands of demonstrators tore down the flag at the American embassy, President Mohammad Morsi's government condemned the film as "offensive to the Prophet and immoral".

The government called on Egyptians to exercise restraint, but the country's powerful Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi emerged, called for new nationwide protests.

Protests


Coptic activists in Egypt said they planned to stage their own protest against the film later on Wednesday outside US missions in Egypt and Libya to condemn "all sorts of contempt or disdain against any religion".

Egyptian media have said that some Egyptian Copts living in the US were involved in the production of the film, which was produced by Israeli-American Sam Bacile, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Hundreds of protesters in Sudan also demonstrated outside the American embassy.

Afghanistan's government meanwhile blocked YouTube for nearly 90 minutes to discourage people from watching the film that it called an "inhuman and insulting act".

Blame

Iran blamed the US for what it called the "repulsive" movie.

"The American government has the responsibility to stop this dangerous trend in the spreading of insults to Islamic Umma's [nation's] highest sanctities," said foreign ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast.

In Libya, where US support was key to implementing the Nato no-fly zone that enabled the country's current leadership to overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi last year, the government apologised for the killings.

"We present our apologies to the United States, the American people and the entire world for what happened," said Mohamed al-Megaryef, president of Libya's highest political authority, the General National Congress.

Concerns

But the killings raised concern abroad that Libya's new government is not in full command of the forces transforming the country.

Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen called on Libya's government to ensure "a peaceful, secure and democratic future".

The UN's top political official, Jeffrey Feltman, said that at the world body "we condemn in the strongest terms" the attack, adding that the killings "further emphasise" Libya's security challenges.

And Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski suggested that "extremist activities by al-Qaeda" may have played a role in stirring up protesters' emotions.

Europe

The killings drew wide condemnation in the rest of Europe.

EU diplomatic chief Catherine Ashton called the attacks "despicable" and German government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said they were "tragic and difficult to bear".

British Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the Libyan authorities "to ensure that this is fully investigated, that those responsible are brought to justice".

Canada echoed that call, with Minister for Foreign Affairs John Baird saying Libya must protect foreign diplomats and "ensure the extremists responsible are brought to swift justice".

The Vatican for its part condemned both the anti-Muslim "provocations" of the film and the resulting "unacceptable violence".

And Israel, the United States's closest ally in the Middle East, conveyed its condolences, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying: "The people of Israel stand alongside the American people in their sorrow."

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  libya  |  benghazi attack  |  religion  |  prophet protests
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