Pakistan set for 'day of love for prophet'

2012-09-21 08:04

Islamabad - Tens of thousands of Pakistanis are expected to protest on Friday as global Muslim anger mounts over a US-made anti-Islam film and cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a French magazine.

Huge crowds attempted to storm Islamabad's diplomatic enclave on Thursday, and similar demonstrations took place around the world, with crowds from Nigeria to Iran and Afghanistan chanting: "Death to France" and "Death to America".

Western missions across the Islamic world are on high alert ahead of Friday prayers, which are often followed by protests.

The Pakistani government has called an impromptu public holiday on Friday - a "day of love for the prophet" - and has urged people to protest peacefully to show their opposition to the crudely made Innocence of Muslims film.

All of Pakistan's major political parties and religious groups have announced protests, as have many trade and transport organisations.

Shops, markets and petrol stations will close and transport is likely to come to a standstill, but authorities will hope there is no repeat of the violence seen on the streets of the capital on Thursday.

Dozens of protests

Around 5 000 angry protesters, many armed with wooden clubs, battled police near Islamabad's heavily guarded diplomatic enclave, demanding access to the US embassy, as police used tear gas and live rounds to disperse the crowd.

There have been dozens of protests against the film across Pakistan in the past week, and two people have died, but Thursday was the first time violence erupted in the capital.

Dozens of officers were wounded and a police post burnt to the ground before army troops were eventually called in to disperse the protesters, who had breached a wall of shipping containers designed to hold them back.

The film has triggered protests in at least 20 countries since excerpts were posted online, and more than 30 people have been killed in related violence.

The US State Department on Thursday warned its citizens to avoid travel to Pakistan, and Washington paid to air adverts on Pakistani television in a bid to disassociate the US government from the inflammatory film.

US interests bore the brunt of the first wave of protests against the amateurish film, which depicts Muhammad as a thuggish sexual deviant.

France bars protests

But this week France also found itself in the firing line after the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo printed a batch of cartoons caricaturing the founder of Islam, including two showing him naked.

French authorities banned a demonstration planned for Saturday in front of Paris's Grand Mosque, and will close diplomatic missions, cultural centres and French schools in around 20 Muslim countries on Friday.

The French interior ministry has said it will deny all requests for permits to protest against the film after a demonstration last weekend near the US embassy in Paris turned violent.

Leaders of France's Muslim community - the largest in Western Europe - said an appeal for calm would be read in mosques across the country on Friday but also condemned Charlie Hebdo for publishing "insulting" images.

The magazine's editor, Stephane Charbonnier, mocked those angered by the cartoons as "ridiculous clowns" and accused the government of pandering to them by criticising the magazine for being provocative.

The United States is still investigating a deadly attack on one of its consulates in Libya after the row first erupted that left four US officials dead, including the ambassador.

'Terrorist attack'

The White House confirmed that FBI investigators suspected that al-Qaeda may have been linked to the 11 September attack on the Benghazi compound.

However, it is not yet clear whether the attack by armed militants sprang out of the protest movement against the privately produced film or whether it was a pre-planned assault by an organised Islamist faction.

US President Barack Obama's spokesperson called the killings a "terrorist attack" and said officials were probing reports that the militants could have links to al-Qaeda or its North African offshoot.

Separately, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that a senior panel would be appointed to review security in the wake of the killings. She was also to brief lawmakers on the investigation into the attack.

  • Maverick82 - 2012-09-21 08:23

    Blah blah blah....

  • kenny.bianco.7 - 2012-09-21 08:33

    What kind of religious group chant Death?

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-21 09:00

      Hanif, you're part of the blind masses. How can you be so blind? HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of your countrymen and women are literally being slaughtered and maimed by unelected dictators and Jihadists. And that's what you think and see?

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-21 09:22

      @Kenny - Death cults. @Hanif - dispite it being the mommoth standing in the corner i suppose its easier to blame the west & isreal(for everything) for the highly improbable manipulation of everyone around the world . Lets put this to the test of how this moral impropriaty is displayed . Pakistan just lost more than 250 people in factory fires . a truely horrific and tragic event effecting many families in the most profound way but they would rather march and go dilly because of a trailer movie posted on the internet by a small group of people that paints their religous prophet in a bad light(1 of thousands) . So either its the evil west and their tricksy ways or the authorities using this as distraction for their own corruption and failures putting the enemy(out-group) there is a vent for their rage again using blasphemy as a political tool (which has been done before).

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-09-21 10:40

      Not going to argue your points as i think they validate mine however i'm not sure what you think the west is failing at? As we've seen the ME is brewing with youth desperate and actively seeking reforms ,democracy ,freedoms and representation . They have been sheltered from the world , told what to think and do , now with cellphones and other social media technology are breaking barriers all over . Even Iran knows the threat of the student led green movement is greatest to them and their Basijj malitia can only suppress for so long ergo the political manuvering and rush to be a nuclear state (keep'em constantly worried about Isreal and haplessly dependent on the regime from the enemy ). With these freedoms you'll see a far more critical stance on religous fanaticism , blasphemy is being used to suppress and divert this as well as to get internet sites like you tube blocked which has been a major tool in the uprisings to get info out. Really the west just needs to step back and watch this process take its natural course , they still need to deal with the fringe fanatics who are a danger to them and others (that there is no doubt) and of course support and encourage these changes. Fortunately the West will and cannot tip toe and change their core values to placate the medievil sensibilites of what can only be described as death cults. I speak as someone who values life over death and see's religion as equal and equivlent glimpes of the untruth.

  • robbie.crouch - 2012-09-21 08:36

    "Separately, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that a senior panel would be appointed to review security in the wake of the killings. She was also to brief lawmakers on the investigation into the attack." Useless cow... left the mission unprotected in a country in turmoil!

      fred.fraser.12 - 2012-09-21 08:58

      That's your level of analysis and intelligence: a useless cow. Grow up and get an education.

  • Bob.Cee123 - 2012-09-21 09:15

    What an absolute cheese-fest. Truly infantile.

  • wilma.stoltz.7 - 2012-09-21 09:16

    Every day should be a Peace Day! for the reference.....

  • phae.rayden - 2012-09-21 09:50

    Disgusting behaviour. People don't have to play the Islam game if they don't want to. There are billions who don't subscribe to its brand of religious beliefs and are entitled to other opinions. The internet is overloaded with derogatory images of the Prophet, this battle is futile. How can using terror to protect the laws of a so called 'peaceful' religion be acceptable, and why are so few standing up against this vicious, murderous reaction?

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