CAIRO: As Pakistan burnt and raged on Friday, Muslims across the world also registered their protests against the sacrilegious movie ‘Innocence of Muslims’ and caricatures published in a French magazine, albeit in less violent ways.
Protesters took to the streets from Rabat to Jakarta, and Cairo, Kabul, Tehran and New Delhi in between, as religious leaders appealed for calm, and condemnations against the ‘provocations’ flew in from the United Nations and the European Union.
Reaction in North Africa
Condemning the publication of the cartoons in France, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions had endured “the worst insults from the non-believers of his time.”
“But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the Prophet (PBUH) is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims,” Mufti Gomaa said.
Meanwhile, some 200 Moroccans protested outside a mosque in Rabat’s twin cities of Sale after Friday prayers, chanting anti-US slogans and denouncing US President Barack Obama, an AFP photographer reported.
The protest lasted around 20 minutes, the photographer said.
Tunisia, meanwhile, banned all demonstrations after receiving a tip-off about preparations for violence.
“The interior ministry … announces that it is outlawing any form of demonstration anywhere in Tunisian territory on Friday,” a ministry statement said on Thursday.
Protests in Asia
The US embassy in New Delhi was shut and employees were asked to stay on the compound due to the risk of protests, embassy sources said.
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir fired tear gas at protesters who defied an unofficial curfew in the main city of Srinagar.
By mid-afternoon, there were no reports of demonstrations in New Delhi or elsewhere in India.
Elsewhere in South Asia, a small group of Muslims held a demonstration in Sri Lanka and security was heightened in the diplomatic quarter of Dhaka in Bangladesh.
Indonesians staged anti-French and -American protests, gathering outside the US and French missions. Protesters targeted American fast food outlets, and scuffled with police.
About 50 protesters demonstrated outside the US embassy in Jakarta, while a similar number gathered at the French embassy in the capital, where they chanted “death to France”, “France is evil” and “crush France”.
German allows, France bans protests
While demonstrators marched through peacefully in German cities, France said it was banning all protests over the sacrilegious film.
Around 800 demonstrators marched through the German city of Freiburg under the banner “I Love My Prophet”.
Freiburg was the first German city to approve such a march. Protesters hoisted signs reading “Yes to freedom of expression, no to insults” and “I am protesting against the lack of respect toward my beloved Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).”
Another 500 people gathered in the western city of Muenster, police said.
Paris police, meanwhile, banned two demonstrations planned for Saturday (today), including one in front of the city’s Grand Mosque, a police source said.
France’s interior minister said he will ban all protests over the provocative film, after a violent protest last weekend near the US embassy in central Paris.
Dalil Boubakeur, the rector of the Paris’ Grand Mosque, condemned the sacrilegious drawings, but appealed to Muslim groups not to give into the provocation.
EU condemns incitement
The European Union, meanwhile, issued a joint appeal, through its foreign policy chief, with the Arab League, African Union and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation for “peace and tolerance.”
“We condemn any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to hostility and violence,” the EU said.
“While fully recognising freedom of expression, we believe in the importance of respecting all prophets, regardless of which religion they belong to.”
UN terms film, cartoons ‘malicious’
“Both the film and the cartoons are malicious and deliberately provocative. The film particularly portrays a disgracefully distorted image of Muslims,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, told a news briefing in Geneva.
He said Pillay upheld people’s right to protest peacefully, but saw no justification for violent and destructive reactions.
“In the case of Charlie Hebdo, given that they knew perfectly what happened in response to the film last week, it seems doubly irresponsible on their part to have published these cartoons,” Colville said of the French magazine.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2012.