avoiding being swept by violence
Saudi Arabia says no to protest against US-made anti-Islam film
Thousands of Pakistanis are burning properties of their country against US-made, anti-Islam film and cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a French magazine. The whole Muslim world has had bloody protests since this film was released except for Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) where no such protest has been observed, confirming the fact that people of these countries follow the official guideline before acting against anything. History confirms that Muslims out of the holy land are more sentimental over the issue of any derogation against the last prophet of Islam – Muhammad - who is the most sacred personality of any living Muslim. Muslims living anywhere in the world, including North America, Africa, and Europe, are perturbed by constant derogation of Islam by the western media, and protests are being observed in these countries as well but in a moderate and civilized way.
Al Arabiya News reports that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, billionaire nephew of Saudi Arabia’s king, said on Tuesday only a minority were involved in violent anti-US protests over a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad, and Islam was too strong to warrant such an uproar over the matter. Known for his investments in some of the world’s top firms, including Citigroup, Alwaleed told Reuters in an interview that reforms in his homeland, the world’s top oil exporter, were not going fast enough and that Arab states must learn lessons from Arab Spring revolts to avoid being swept by more violence.
Albawaba News reports that the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the highest religious authority in the kingdom, on Saturday condemned the attacks against diplomatic representations as contrary to Islam after protests that have rocked the Arab and Muslim world. Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al al Sheikh condemned the anti-Islamic film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which sparked protests and called on governments and international bodies to criminalize insults against the prophets.
“It is forbidden to punish the innocent for the crimes of the guilty or attack those who were given the protection of their lives and their property or public buildings exposed to fire or destruction,” said the Grand Mufti in a speech quoted by the SPA news agency.
Describing the film as “pathetic” and “criminal,” he said attacks against innocent people and diplomats were “as a deformation of the Islamic religion.” They “are not accepted by God,” he said.
According to Press TV, Saudi police is making random arrests of people who allegedly look suspicious and are planning any protest against the blasphemous film.
Guardian reports that security forces in Islamic countries are bracing for a day of anti-western fury, with international protests planned against a YouTube video ridiculing Muslims, and French cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad.
France has closed embassies and schools in about 20 countries around the world after the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a series of cartoons depicting the prophet, including two showing him naked.
Pakistan has drafted in troops to protect foreign embassies and blocked mobile phone signals in about 15 cities after thousands of violent protesters clashed with police on Thursday. The government has declared Friday “a day of love for the prophet,” a move welcomed by the Taliban, and that risks substantially increasing the already high threat of violence on the traditional Islamic holy day.
The American embassy in Pakistan has been running television advertisements, one featuring the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, emphasizing that the US government had nothing to do with the film.
The US and French embassies were closed on Friday in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and diplomatic missions in the Afghan capital, Kabul, were on lockdown.
The cartoons in the French satirical weekly have provoked relatively little street anger, although about 100 Iranians demonstrated outside the French embassy in Tehran.
In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab spring revolts, the Islamist-led government banned anti-cartoon protests planned for Friday. Four people died and almost 30 were wounded last week when protesters incensed by the anti-Islam film stormed the US embassy.
Condemning the publication of the cartoons in France as an act verging on incitement, Egypt’s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, said on Thursday it showed how polarized the west and the Muslim world had become.
Muhammad and his companions had endured “the worst insults from the non-believers of his time,” he wrote on the Reuters blog Faith World.
“Not only was his message routinely rejected, but he was often chased out of town, cursed, and physically assaulted on numerous occasions.
“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 is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims.”
Last week, Egyptian protesters scaled the US embassy walls and tore down the flag. They clashed with police for four days, although most of the thousands who took to the streets did so peacefully.
Gomaa said insults to Islam and the response, including the killing of the US ambassador in Libya and attacks on other western embassies in the region, could not be dissociated from other points of conflict between the west and the Muslim world.
He cited the treatment of Muslims at the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay, the US-led war in Iraq, drone attacks in Yemen and Pakistan, and the demonization of Muslims by far-right European parties as “underlying factors” for the tension.
“To then insist on igniting these simmering tensions by publishing hurtful and insulting material in a foolhardy attempt at bravado – asserting the superiority of western freedoms over alleged Muslim closed-mindedness – verges on incitement,” he wrote.
After the invasion of the US embassy in Tunis on Friday last week, the Tunisian interior ministry banned protests against the cartoon this Friday “to prevent human and material losses.”
In an attempt to defuse tensions, the EU, the organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Arab League, and the African Union issued a joint message.
“We share a profound respect for all religions,” it said, “We are united in our belief in the fundamental importance of religious freedom and tolerance. We condemn any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to hostility and violence. While fully recognizing freedom of expression, we believe in the importance of respecting all prophets, regardless of which religion they belong to.
“The anguish of Muslims at the production of the film insulting Islam, posting of its trailer on the Internet, and other similar acts is shared by all individuals and communities who refuse to allow religion to be used to fuel provocation, confrontation, and extremism.”
The furor over the anti-Islam film and the cartoons has presented a tough challenge to authorities in Arab countries where popular uprisings have overthrown entrenched autocrats.
In Libya, where militias that helped overthrow Muammar Gaddafi still wield much power, the foreign minister offered a further apology for the death of the US ambassador, Chris Stevens, to the visiting US deputy Secretary of State, William Burns, on Thursday.
Stevens and three other embassy staff died in an attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi by gunmen among a crowd protesting against the film that denigrated the prophet.
AFP reports huge crowds attempted to storm Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave 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 organizations.
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.
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 Mohammed as a thuggish sexual deviant.
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 centers, 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 criticizing 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.
The White House confirmed that FBI investigators suspected that Al-Qaeda may have been linked to the September 11 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 organized Islamist faction.
US President Barack Obama’s spokesman 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.