Innocence of Muslims: new film protests in Muslim world
New protests are under way in Muslim countries against anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims made in the US.
In Pakistan, a government-declared “special day of love” for the Prophet Muhammad has seen violent clashes and at least one death in the northern city of Peshawar, and clashes elsewhere.
The US has paid for adverts on Pakistani TV that show President Barack Obama condemning the film.
There has been widespread unrest over the amateur film, Innocence of Muslims.
The protests have already claimed several lives around the world.
In Peshawar, protesters attacked and ransacked two cinema buildings. A driver for a Pakistani TV station was killed when police opened fire to disperse protesters, seven of whom were reported wounded.
Clashes between police and protesters are also being reported from the cities of Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi.
In the capital Islamabad, which saw fierce clashes between protesters and security forces on Thursday, the security forces have effectively sealed off large parts of the city. Rubber bullets were fired by police during skirmishes at one of the entrances to the city.
Dozens of protests against the film had already been held across Pakistan over the past week – killing at least two people – but Thursday was the first time violence had erupted in the capital.
All major political parties and religious organizations have announced protests for Friday, along with trade and transport groups.
The Pakistani authorities have urged people to demonstrate peacefully, with mobile phone services cut across the country to reduce security risks.
Meanwhile, the US charge d’affaires Richard Hoagland was summoned to the Pakistani Foreign Office and an official protest was lodged with him. He is reported to have responded that the US government had nothing to do with the film.
The US state department has issued a warning against any non-essential travel to Pakistan.
France has closed its embassies and other official offices in about 20 countries across the Muslim world on Friday after French magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, including two drawings showing him naked.
French Muslim leaders condemned the magazine and said an appeal for calm would be read in mosques across the country on Friday.
Charlie Hebdo sold out on Wednesday but is publishing another 70,000 copies, to coincide with Friday prayers.
In Tunisia – where France is the former colonial power – the government has banned Friday protests.
Calls to protest against the caricatures have turned up in Tunisian social media. Interior Minister Ali Larayedh said it was believed that some groups were planning violent protests after Friday prayers.
There are also fears of violence in the Libyan city of Benghazi after rival groups said they would take to the streets.
One group intends to denounce extremism and urge militias to disband, following an attack on the US consulate in the city on 11 September that killed the US ambassador and three other American officials.
Throughout the week, Benghazi residents have left wreaths and placards condemning the attack outside the US mission.
Meanwhile, Ansar al-Sharia, the jihadist militia blamed by some local people for the attack, called for protests “in defence of the Prophet Muhammad”. Both protests are scheduled for the same time.
In the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, more than 2,000 people protested peacefully in front of the US embassy.
Some protesters were holding signs insisting that insulting religion was not freedom of speech.
In Cairo, where the protests against the film began, Egyptian security forces are patrolling the streets around the US embassy.
Radical Islamists have clashed with security forces there in recent days, although President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood has stayed away from the unrest, only condemning the film and calling for peaceful demonstrations.
The low-budget film that sparked the controversy was made in the US and is said to insult the Prophet Muhammad.
Its exact origins are unclear and the alleged producer for the trailer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is in hiding.
Anti-US sentiment grew after a trailer for the film dubbed into Arabic was released on YouTube earlier this month.
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