GCC urges calm amid rage
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Friday condemned an anti-Islam film as well as the violence it has triggered, as angry protests spread across the Muslim world, with demonstrators scaling the walls of US embassies in Tunisia and Sudan, torching part of a German embassy and clashing with security forces at an American fast-food restaurant that was set ablaze in northern Lebanon.
“This film cannot be accepted or excused as it abuses the feelings of Muslims and non-Muslims who reject insulting prophets, religions and beliefs,” GCC Secretary-General Abdullatif Al Zayani said in a statement.
Zayani also “condemned acts of violence against US embassies in some countries”, adding that “our anger... is no excuse to carrying out such attacks that only serve the low and suspicious aims of those who produced it”.
The GCC chief called for the issue to be dealt with “wisely” and for those who carry out or support such attacks to be punished.
Bahrain’s Interior Minister Shaikh Rashed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa ordered “the blocking and stopping of websites carrying the film mocking” Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), according to state news agency BNA.
Citizens were urged “not to participate in broadcasting the film by sharing it on social media networks”, and advised against allowing their children to watch it.
Egypt’s new Islamist president went on national TV and appealed to Muslims not to attack embassies, denouncing the violence earlier this week in Libya that killed four Americans. Mohammed Mursi’s first public move to restrain protesters after days of near silence appeared aimed at repairing strains with the United States over this week’s violence. Police in Cairo prevented stone-throwing demonstrators from nearing the US embassy, firing teargas and deploying armoured vehicles to push them back in a fourth day of clashes in the Egyptian capital.
The day of protests, which spread to around 20 countries, started small and mostly peacefully in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The most violent demonstrations took place in the Middle East. In many places, only a few hundred took to the streets, mostly ultraconservative Islamists — but the mood was often furious.
Several thousand demonstrators protested outside the US Embassy in Tunis and battled with security forces, throwing stones as police fired volleys of teargas and shot in the air. Some protesters scaled the embassy wall and stood on top of it, planting a black flag with the Islamic profession of faith, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Prophet (peace be upon him).” The state news agency TAP said two demonstrators were killed.
The heaviest violence came in Sudan, where a prominent preacher on state radio urged protesters to march on the German Embassy to protest against alleged anti-Muslim graffiti on mosques in Berlin and then to the US Embassy to protest against the film.
Soon after, several hundred Sudanese stormed into the German embassy, setting part of an embassy building aflame along with trash bins and a parked car. Protesters danced and celebrated around the burning barrels as palls of black smoke billowed into the sky until police firing teargas drove them out of the compound. Some then began to demonstrate outside the neighbouring British embassy, shouting slogans.
Several thousand then moved on the American embassy, on the capital’s outskirts. They tried to storm the mission, clashing with Sudanese police, who opened fire on some who tried to scale the compound’s wall. It was not clear whether any protesters made it into the embassy grounds.
The police then launched giant volleys of teargas to disperse the crowd, starting a stampede. Witnesses reported seeing three protesters motionless on the ground, apparently dead, though there was no immediate confirmation of deaths in the violence.
Ahead of the expected wave of protests on Friday — a traditional day for rallies in the Islamic world — US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton explicitly denounced the movie, aiming to pre-empt further turmoil at its embassies and consulates.
“The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video,” she said before a meeting with the foreign minister of Morocco at the State Department. “We absolutely reject its content and message.” She said the video was “disgusting and reprehensible”.
Egypt’s Mursi said his TV address that “it is required by our religion to protect our guests and their homes and places of work”, he said. He called the killing of the American ambassador in Libya unacceptable in Islam. “To God, attacking a person is bigger than an attack on the Kaaba,” he said, referring to Islam’s holiest site in Makkah.
His speech came after President Barack Obama spoke with Mursi by telephone. The Obama administration has been angered by Mursi’s slow response to the attack on Tuesday night on the US Embassy in Cairo.
Several hundred people, protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square after the Friday prayers and tore up an American flag.
Many in the crowd then moved to join protesters who have been clashing for several days with police between Tahrir and the US Embassy. “With our soul, our blood, we will avenge you, our Prophet,” they chanted as police fired volleys of teargas.
Elsewhere, one protester was killed in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli in clashes with security forces, after a crowd of protesters set fire to a KFC and a Hardee’s restaurant. Protesters hurled stones and glass at police in a furious melee that left 25 people wounded, 18 of them police. —
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