PARIS: Fresh protests erupted in the Muslim world on Wednesday over the anti-Islam film while a French magazine published a series of provocative cartoons depicting the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), further fuelling the flames of rage.
France braced for a backlash from the cartoons, stepping up security at its embassies and banning demonstrations on its own soil as senior officials appealed for calm.More than 30 people have been killed in attacks or violent protests linked to the profane US-made film “Innocence of Muslims.”
About 1,000 protesters took to the streets in eastern Afghanistan, blocking a key road to Kabul and chanting “Death to America” and “Death to the enemies of Islam.” In reaction to the uproar, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published extremely blasphemous cartoons.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius admitted he feared a backlash over the cartoons and said embassies and other French institutions in around 20 countries will be closed tomorrow (Friday) for fear of being targeted in protests.
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said anyone offended by the cartoons could take the matter to the courts but made it clear there would be no action against the weekly.Leaders of the large Muslim community in France said an appeal for calm would be read out in mosques across the country tomorrow (Friday) but also condemned the magazine for publishing insulting images.
Washington has also moved to boost security in the wake of the protests, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying the US was taking “aggressive steps” to protect diplomatic missions worldwide.
US President Barack Obama said Tuesday he expected governments in the Muslim world to protect American diplomats, despite their revulsion at the film. “The message we have to send to the Muslim world is that we expect you to work with us, to keep our people safe,” Obama said.
On a visit to Lithuania on Wednesday, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul condemned the film and the French cartoons as provocations. “We are living in a world where everybody should respect the belief of others,” he said.
Muslim men and women in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka also staged their first demonstration on Wednesday, with several hundred gathering in the capital Colombo near the US embassy to denounce the film.
Women used broom sticks to beat photographs of Obama while men threw slippers at US and Israeli flags.Afghanistan, Bangladesh Sudan and Pakistan blocked access to YouTube following the site’s release of the clip of the blasphemous film, while the Maldives has banned the film.
The “Innocence of Muslims” has been added to a list of banned films, the Maldivian National Bureau of Classification (NBC) said. Saudi Arabia has also threatened to block all access to YouTube inside the kingdom unless the site cuts local access to the profane film.
Meanwhile, secretary general of the OIC Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu expressed shock and dismay over the publication of blasphemous caricatures by the French weekly. In a statement issued in Jeddah, the OIC secretary general cautioned that publication would contribute to further exacerbate the ongoing turmoil and violence created by the release of the anti-Islam film.
ISLAMABAD: Thousands of lawyers and people belonging to civil society came out against the blasphemous film, sweeping away all barriers on the way to the Red Zone and entering the diplomatic enclave after breaking Gate-2 with a Shahzor truck. However, heavy contingents of police and Frontier Constabulary blocked them some 40 feet inside the gate.
Angry protestors remained in the premises of the diplomatic enclave for more than one hour. In their furious addresses to the mob, they expressed hatred against the anti-Islam act which they ascribed to the US and Israel. They burnt down American flags outside the gate towards the Constitution Avenue, chanted slogans against the US and Pakistan governments and dispersed.
The mob comprising lawyers and people belonging to civil society reached D-Chowk at about 11:15am and marched towards the Red Zone. When the angry mob reached the entry point of Nadra Headquarters, heavy contingents of law enforcing agencies tried to block their way. However, the mob ransacked the impasse, pushed back police personnel and reached Radio Pakistan Chowk, where they faced another obstacle in the shape of law enforcing agencies heavily deployed.
However these too failed to intercept the enraged people who marched on to Constitution Avenue and reached Gate-2 of the diplomatic enclave in front of the Foreign Office, where law enforcing personnel were deployed under the command of SSP (Operation).
The mob faced some resistance here too, but furious lawyers and members of civil society stormed into the diplomatic enclave after ramming the Gate-2 with a Shahzor mini truck. This time, heavy deployment of Frontier Constabulary blocked them near the first barrier, some 40 feet inside the Gate-2.
The SSP (Operation) summoned nine reserves of police into the diplomatic enclave through Gate-1 (France Gate) at 12:40pm as reinforcement and blocked the procession on way to US embassy.
However, better sense prevailed and the leadership of lawyers decided against marching towards the US embassy after the administration assured them that their protest and their sentiments would be conveyed to the relevant embassy authorities. Some police sources told The News that a delegation of lawyers was allowed to go to the US embassy to handover their protest note to the embassy officials.
The protesting lawyers left the diplomatic enclave at about 1:30pm, after staying in the premises for over one hour and a half. No damage on the way to the Red Zone and inside the diplomatic enclave was reported, police sources said.
It is worth mentioning that this was the first time after the establishment of a security division that a protesting mob has entered the premises of the diplomatic enclave and crossed the gate and remained there for such a long time.
A police source told The News police authorities received continuous directions from concerned quarters to handle protesting lawyers with caution and were prohibited to use force.
Meanwhile, the Senate Standing Committee on Information and Broadcasting condemned the sacrilegious film and urged the government to raise the issue at the annual United Nations General Assembly session scheduled to begin later this month.
LAHORE: All journalist organisations staged a protest demonstration against the blasphemous movie. A large number of journalists belonging to the electronic and print media as well as the Punjab Union of Journalists participated in the protest which was held outside the Lahore Press Club on Wednesday.The participants were carrying banners and placards inscribed with different slogans against the makers of the anti-Islam movie.
FAISALABAD: The students of National Textile University staged a demonstration and observed a sit-in on a road to protest against the blasphemous film. They chanted slogans against the film and demanded stern action against its makers.
Meanwhile, Sunni Ittehad Council chairman Sahibzada Fazal Karim announced that a complete shutter down strike would be observed against the blasphemous movie in Faisalabad tomorrow (Friday).
MULTAN: Different religious organisations and civil society workers staged protest to register their anger against the sacrilegious film.Workers of the Jamaat-ud-Daawa led by Mian Suhail and Abdur Rehman assembled at the centre of the town to condemn the filmmakers.
GUJRANWALA: Lawyers observed a complete strike to condemn the blasphemous movie. They also took out a rally which started from the District Courts and culminated at Gondlanwala Crossing.
HAFIZABAD: A large number of powerloom workers took out a protest rally against an anti-Islam movie. The rally started from Mianda Kot and ended at Vanike Chowk. Muhammad Zaman Ansari, president Labour Union, led the rally. The labourers chanted slogans against America.
MUZAFFARGARH: More than 1,500 participants of eight protest rallies organised by religious, business and political groups protested against an anti-Islam film in Muzaffargarh. DPO Zeeshan Asghar Malik said more than 1,500 people including students and traders took part in the protest rallies.
OKARA: On the appeal of Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran, traders observed a shutter-down against the blasphemous movie and its producers. People from various walks of life were carrying banners against the film and its producers. They gathered at Gole Chowk from where a rally started. After marching through various roads, the protesters returned to Gole Chowk where a public meeting was held.
PAKPATTAN: Activists of Jamaat-e-Islami and IJT took out a rally against the anti-Islam movie. The rally led by Muhammad Arshad marched on Sahiwal Road while students of Government High School and Government Fazilka Islamia High School also participated in the demonstrations.
BUREWALA: A strike was observed in the city by different traders, social and religious organisations against the anti-Islam film. The strike call was given by several religious and business organisations including Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran, Burewala, JI, JUI, Anjuman Talaba-e-Islam, PML-N and Ahle Sunnat Wal-Jamaat.
HYDERABAD: The activists of various organisations continued their protest on Wednesday against the anti-Islam film.
AFP adds from Paris: A French magazine published a series of provocative cartoons Wednesday showing the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), likely to further fan the flames after a wave of Muslim protests over an anti-Islam film.
Fears that the already growing anger against an anti-Islam film could spread to Europe mounted Wednesday after French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons.
France stepped up security at its embassies in countries where there could be a hostile reaction to the cartoons, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, adding that he was “concerned” by the potential for a backlash.
The magazine’s editor, originally a cartoonist who uses the name Charb, said the images would “shock those who will want to be shocked”.
“The freedom of the press, is that a provocation?” he said. “I’m not asking strict Muslims to read Charlie Hebdo, just like I wouldn’t go to a mosque to listen to speeches that go against everything I believe.”
Charlie Hebdo is no stranger to controversy. Last year it published an edition “guest-edited” by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that it called Sharia Hebdo and its offices in Paris were subsequently firebombed.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said anyone offended by the cartoons could take the matter to the courts after expressing his “disapproval of all excesses”, but he emphasised France’s tradition of free speech.
The cover of Charlie Hebdo shows a Muslim man in a wheelchair being pushed by an Orthodox Jew under the title “Intouchables 2”, referring to a French film about a poor black man who helps an aristocratic quadriplegic.
The French PM suggested the magazine’s editorial team should have taken the current context of widespread Muslim anger over an anti-Islam film into account when deciding whether to publish the cartoons.
France’s interior minister said that freedom of speech, including caricature, was a “fundamental right” backed by the law. Manuel Valls made the statement after meeting with French Muslim leaders angered by the cartoons. Valls also warned that any demonstrations that disturbed public order would meet with “a very firm response from the state”.
The cartoons have been branded insulting by French Muslim leaders and politicians have accused Charlie Hebdo editor Stephane Charbonnier of acting irresponsibly.
Meanwhile, French schools in Tunisia were closed from Wednesday until Monday, the embassy said, adding that it has requested extra security. “The French school network and Tunisia’s French Institute will be closed from midday on Wednesday... until Monday morning,” the embassy said. “It’s a preventative measure. We have not received any direct threats,” an embassy source told AFP.