Many killed in Pakistan as fresh anti-Islam film protests erupt in Muslim world

In Middle Eastern and Asian countries tens of thousands took to the streets to vent their anger

  • A demonstrator brandishes a stick near burning police vehicles during protests against the anti-Islam film in Image Credit: AFP
  • A demonstrator throws a tear gas shell at riot police in Islamabad, Pakistan, yesterday. Angryprotesters setImage Credit: AFP
  • A Pakistani protester carries a burning piece of canvas towards containers police had placed to block the roadImage Credit: AP

Islamabad: Fresh protests erupted across the Muslim world on Friday against a US-made film and French cartoons mocking Islam, with violent demonstrations in Pakistan leaving at least 16 people dead.

In Middle Eastern and Asian countries tens of thousands took to the streets after the main weekly prayers to vent their anger, with little sign that the angry protests which began 11 days ago would abate.

Western missions were shut across the Islamic world, fearing further escalation of the backlash over the low-budget film "Innocence of Muslims" that has spread across the world.

France, where a magazine this week published a series of cartoons mocking the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), has shut embassies, consulates, cultural centres and schools in 20 Muslim countries, fearing the fury will spread from US targets.

Pakistan bore the brunt of the anger on Friday, with huge crowds of demonstrators throwing stones and setting buildings ablaze to denounce the film.

There were clashes in the country's five largest cities leaving 16 dead and almost 200 others wounded, as protesters defied government calls for peaceful demonstrations on what was declared a national holiday.

Witnesses estimated that nationwide rallies mobilised more than 45,000, mainly members of right-wing religious parties and supporters of banned terror groups, although the numbers were still small in a country of 180 million.

Police fought back with gunshots and tear gas as arsonists and looters attacked cinemas, banks, shops and restaurants in Karachi, where outbreaks of political and ethnically-linked violence have killed hundreds this year.

Two cinemas were also torched and ransacked in the northwestern city of Peshawar, on the edge of tribal belt strongholds of the Taliban and Al Qaida. In Karachi, a policeman who died after being shot when officers used tear gas to disperse a crowd near the US consulate was among nine people killed in the country's largest city. Four people were killed in Peshawar, including the driver for a TV channel which blamed police for his death.

Police and paramilitary troops deployed en masse fired off volleys of tear gas to hold off protesters from breaching barricades that sealed access to Western embassies and consulates.

In Islamabad gunshots were also fired outside the five-star Serena Hotel and police baton-charged some 8,000 protesters trying to penetrate the heavily-guarded diplomatic enclave. Protestors threw stones, shouting "Americans are dogs" and "Friends of America are traitors", while setting fire to an effigy of a nameless American.

The government had declared Friday a "day of love for the prophet", but for hours shut down mobile telephone networks in an apparent bid to prevent extremists from exploiting the protests to carry out bomb attacks. "It is our collective responsibility to protest peacefully without causing harm or damage to life or property," said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf as shops, markets and petrol stations shut en masse in an unprecedented closure.

Washington has warned citizens not to travel to Pakistan and spent $70,000 to air TV adverts in the country disassociating the US government from the film. While the protests turned ugly in Pakistan, in other Muslim countries demonstrations were not as violent as had been feared.

In the Arab world, Muslims took to the streets of Lebanon, while there were also demonstrations in Basra in south Iraq and in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Tunisia had banned all demonstrations amid fears of violence and Libya's second city Benghazi braced for rival demonstrations by a jihadist militia and its opponents.

Tensions are still running high after a deadly attack on the US consulate in the city last week which left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans dead. The White House says the FBI suspects Al Qaida may have been linked to the attack, but it remains unclear whether it was a pre-planned assault or whether it sprang out of a protest against the film.

There were also demonstrations across Asia in Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Bangladesh, where about 10,000 took to the streets of Dhaka to condemn the film and the French cartoons. US interests bore the brunt of protests against the film.

After French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo printed anti-Islam  cartoons, the government said it would deny requests to protest against the film and news of the cartoons appeared slow to filter to the Islamic world. The magazine's editor, Stephane Charbonnier, mocked those angered by the cartoons as "ridiculous clowns" and accused the French government of pandering to them by criticising the magazine for being provocative.

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  • Nadeem Abbas

    22-Sep-2012 14:58

    Dear Muslims,Media just showing voilence protest to increase itsrating. Millions of peoples across the different cities of pakistan didprotest quite peacefully. why media is not showing these peacefullprtoest?

  • Hani

    22-Sep-2012 14:09

    what would Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] do? Teach and Forgive!! this is our messagein Islam. let God Almighty work his magic, his actions have wisdom. Heknows what we think ,act or will act,will say or have said and of coursewouldnt apreciate us doing harm to our land. this is the land that ourProphet freed for us, is that how we repay him??? come on let usbe smarter and idiolise ourselves with the islam andhadeeth of the Messengers of Allah [PBUH].

  • Baquer Pervez

    22-Sep-2012 12:06

    I too stongly condemn the violent protest. Instead make a film by name Message, showing real preachings & messages of our Holy Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W.W) who was the most liked (Habib) Prophet of Allah and Leader of Humanity of Universe & stood as a example for every mankind.

  • Ali

    22-Sep-2012 11:58

    According to me the punishment should be given to only those people who are defaulters and do mistakes, you cannot blame everyone. This is no right way to protest, why u r giving trouble to your own country people.

  • Abdul Razzak

    22-Sep-2012 11:46

    I understand the situation we muslims are going thru, but Protest andburning is not Islam. This is not the teaching of Islam NOR will ourbeloved Prophet like this in his interest. If you really love ourProphet and want to reply the insult on the complete ummah today, stopbuying the western products. Control your own self from western productsand express your love. Send Durud And Salam on our beloved Prophet -THIS IS ISLAM. ISLAM MEANS PEACE NOT VIOLENCE - LET US SHOW THE WHOLEWORLD.

  • Jigz

    22-Sep-2012 11:43

    Instead of protesting with anger, destroying government facilities andkilling innocent lives why not focus on providing your family withbetter life by providing their everyday needs. Don't waste time riotingand destroying what your government is providing you. There is asaying, "You reap what you sow." You sow violence, you reapviolence. There are no winners in war and violence, only victims. Don'tlet your family and loved ones become victims of this violence. We arehuman beings who have the ability to think and communicate. Why not havea peaceful talk to settle this issue. Let LOVE & PEACE reign among us.

  • santhosh daniel

    22-Sep-2012 11:25

    Please Dear Brother & Sister Don't Fight or destroy Ur own homelandsince Evil Wants to Encourage you for evil work Don't get trapped bySatan. Since Satan is our worst enemy, Just Hold the Rope of Allah andPray. Fighting will lead our own loss.

  • sofia

    22-Sep-2012 10:29

    i strongly condemn the way of the protest .my dear fellows Islam is notVIOLENCE. gathering a big mob and shouting slogans what do u think willeffect u, no it will potray u as hystericals.... if u want toprotest please do by praying 5 times, sending [peace and blessings] on ourPROPHET..... setting good example is like the islamic foundation inlondon who distributed the Holy Quran among muslims...this is a better way.. all religions are to be respected and if some one abuses our Prophet [PBUH]we should strongly condemn it but not acting violently not killing ourown people,not destroying our city....

  • sehr

    22-Sep-2012 10:11

    When some one mocks ur religion dont go out and destroy yourcountry. Dont set fire to the bank and parks.Dont let the mothers cry on thebodies of their young sons.Take a different route. BE a good Muslim andshow the world that we are a good nation painted by the wrong brush.