Earlier this week, a trailer for a film that depicts the life of the Prophet Mohammed in a negative light was posted on YouTube in Arabic. For many Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is considered blasphemous. The film is blamed for sparking numerous anti-US protests and attacks across the Muslim world. In some countries, the protests are ongoing.
An armed group about 60 to 70 strong attacked the US embassy in Benghazi on Sept. 11, killing the US Ambassador and three other Americans. The attack, which lasted four hours and burned the US embassy building, appeared to have been planned in advance and executed by well-armed militants.
An Islamist group called Ansar al Shariah was blamed for the attack, but according to The New York Times, Ansar al Shariah issued a statement denying responsibility for the attack. However, an anonymous banker who witnessed the events claimed that Ansar al Shariah executed the attack.
On Sept. 11, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Cairo, chanting anti-US slogans. Many of the protesters were ultraconservative Salafists. Some were chanting “We are all Osama”. The protesters climbed the walls of the US embassy, took down the US flag, and replaced it with al Qaeda’s flag. Security forces did little to intervene. Mohamed al Zawahiri, brother of al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri, claimed he had organized the protest.
On Sept. 12, the protests turned violent. Protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails. Riot police responded with warning shots and tear gas. The health ministry reported that 224 people were injured.
Protests continued on Sept. 13 and Sept 14.
Islamist groups called for a “million-man march” in Cairo on Friday, Sept. 14.
Hundreds of protesters stormed the US embassy in Sana’a on Sept. 12, breaking though the main gate, smashing windows, and setting cars alight. The US flag was torn down and and replaced with a black flag bearing the Muslim statement of faith, “There is no God but Allah.” The protesters chanted “death to America” and “death to Israel.”
Yemeni security forces who rushed to the scene fired in the air and used tear gas, but failed to prevent crowds from gaining access to the embassy compound. Reinforcements drove them out of the compound after about 45 minutes and sealed off the surrounding streets. At least five Yemenis were killed.
A Muslim cleric, Abdul Majid al- Zindani, urged followers to emulate the protests in Libya and Egypt. Zindani, a onetime mentor to Osama bin Laden, was named as a specially designated global terrorist by the US Treasury Department in 2004.
Yemen is home to al-Qaida’s most active branch, and the United States is the main foreign supporter of the Yemeni government’s counterterrorism campaign.
Protests erupted in Iraq on Sept. 13 as well. In Baghdad, several hundred members of the Iranian-backed Shiite militia Asaib Ahl al-Haq,protested in the Shiite area of Sadr City, burning US flags and chanting, “Death to America.” Threatening anti-US attacks, their leader said “The offense caused to the messenger (Prophet Mohammad) will put all American interests in danger and we will not forgive them for that,”
In the southern city of Basra, hundreds of followers of anti-US Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets, calling on the Iraqi government to close the US embassy. Both Sunni and Shi’ite clerics participated in the demonstration, which was organized by Sadr’s office. “We have to fire the U.S. ambassador because these things are carried out under U.S. supervision and are aimed at offending Islam and Muslims,” a protester said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki denounced the film as “insulting” and “racist” but called on Muslims not to react with violence. “The natural response is to refrain from resorting to violence and demonstrate the principles of Islam and its civilized values,” he said in a statement.
On Sept. 13, approximately 500 Iranian students protested outside the Swiss embassy in Tehran. (The Swiss embassy oversees US interests in Iran.) Protesters shouted slogans including “Death to America,” “Muslims unite,” and “Mohammad is God’s prophe.t” They called on Muslim nations to “cut their relations with the United States and demonstrate their religious values against the colonial system.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed that the main suspects behind the “crazy and hateful” making of the film were the American government and Zionism. “If American politicians are honest in their claims that they were not involved, they have to hold responsible those who committed this obscene crime … and their financial supporters,”
“The U.S. government’s systematic and continued silence on such repulsive acts is the fundamental reason that they keep happening,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said.
The protests spilled over into Kuwait on Sept. 13 also. About 500 demonstrators gathered near the US embassy, waving a black al Qaeda flag and chanting “Obama, we are all Osama.” The protesters gathered near the US embassy after police forces stopped them from reaching the mission. The crowd called for the expulsion of the US ambassador to the country. “The people want to expel the ambassador,” they chanted.
Also on Sept. 13, Pakistan’s far-right Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami political party asked its supporters to hold protests after Friday’s Muslim prayers to denounce what it called a “shameful movie sponsored by the USA against Islam.” Two other groups also announced plans to demonstrate in the capital of Islamabad on Friday. One group says it plans to march on the US embassy, which is in a walled-off diplomatic district.
On Sept. 12, the Taliban called on Afghans to prepare for a fight against Americans and urged insurgents to “take revenge” on US soldiers. “The Islamic Emirate calls on religious heads around the country to completely inform Muslim followers of the inhumane acts of Americans and make them ready for a long-term fight,” the group said in a statement.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the film, while Afghan communications officials shut down access to YouTube to stop Afghans from seeing the video.
On Sept. 14, about 1,000 people joined a protest in the eastern city of Jalalabad, burning an effigy of US President Barack Obama
On Sept. 13, approximately 1000 members of the Islamic group Khelafat Andolon demonstrated in the capital of Dhaka but were blocked from approaching the US embassy by security forces. The protesters chanted anti-US slogans, burned a US flag, and demanded an immediate apology from the United States. The group threatened larger protests. “We will stage bigger protests over the issue and may also besiege the US embassy,” said Moulana Hemayetuddin, a senior leader of the group.
On Sept. 12, Palestinians protested in front of the United Nations headquarters. About 100 members of the militant group Popular Resistance Committees chanted anti-American slogans, burned the US flag, and called for the death of the filmmaker behind the movie. “We call upon Arab and Islamic countries to expel American ambassadors until Obama administration apologizes to Muslims around the world,” said one protester. The leaders of Hamas called for more protests on Friday.
On Sept. 12 in the capital of Tunis, 200 protesters threw rocks at the police, burned the US flag, and chanted slogans such as “Obama, Obama, we are here for the triumph of Islam,” and “Mohammad is the master of creation.” Police fired teargas and rubber bullets into the air to disperse the crowd.
On Sept. 14, protesters entered the US Embassy compound and started fires, and reportedly set an American school on fire.
On Sept. 14, hundreds of protesters set fire to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant in the city of Tripoli, chanted against the Pope’s visit to the country, shouted anti-American slogans, and wounded 12 members of security forces by throwing stones. Security forces shot and killed one man and wounded two others in a group of protesters who were trying to break into a government building.
On Sept. 14, police in the capital of Khartoum fired tear gas to disperse 5,000 protesters who had surrounded the German and British embassies. Police stood by as a crowd forced its way into Germany’s mission. Demonstrators hoisted a black Islamic flag bearing the inscription in white letters: “There is no God but God and Mohammed is his prophet.” They smashed windows and furniture in the building and then started it on fire.
The US Embassy cautioned Americans to avoid its building and other official government buildings after calls for protests went out on social media.
Demonstrations were reported outside US diplomatic facilities in Morocco
on Sept. 12.
Update Friday, Sept. 14, 6 p.m. EST:
On Sept. 14, Nigerian troops fired into the air to disperse Muslims protesting in the city of Jos. Scores of Muslim demonstrators distributed photographs printed out from the trailer of the film, after Friday prayers. They then marched down the main Bauchi Road shouting “God is Greatest!” a Reuters witness said. The military deployed to block them, firing live rounds into the air and ordering them to disperse.
In the northern city of Sokoto, thousands of people marched peacefully, carrying placards reading “Down with America” and “We love our Prophet,” under a light security presence.
On Sept. 14, about 200 protesters chanted “Death to Jews!” and “Death to America!” in a largely peaceful protest outside the heavily guarded US Embassy in Jakarta.
On Sept. 14, hundreds of protesters gathered outside the US Embassy in Amman, chanting for jihad and praising Osama bin Laden and the killers of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Libya.
On Sept. 14, a large demonstration against the Muhammad movie broke out at BMCI, a bank in Nouakchott, the US Embassy said. It urged all US citizens to avoid the areas around the bank and the Embassy.
Additional protests were reported in Qatar, Kenya, Malaysia, Bahrain, and Jerusalem, Israel.
Update Saturday, Sept. 15, 3 p.m. EST:
On Sept. 14, demonstrations took place in several Pakistani cities. Some protesters called for the death of the filmmaker, and others demanded the expulsion of US diplomats. Police beefed up security around US missions.
In Lahore, Hafiz Saeed, head of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, led a 500-strong rally against the film. Saeed urged the government to summon the US ambassador in protest against the film.
In Karachi, the Jamaat-e-Islami organized a rally of 700 party activists and supporters with banners and placards bearing anti-US and anti-Israel slogans.
In Islamabad, 400 protesters rallied in front of Lal Masjid after Friday prayers, following a call from Jamaat-e-Islami.
In Quetta, hundreds of Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadees workers protested outside the Quetta Press Club. They shouted anti-US slogans. Speakers condemned the anti-Islam video and demanded stern action against the filmmaker.
On Sept. 14 in Srinagar, hundreds of lawyers shouted anti-US slogans and went on strike. Zaffar Shah, former president of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association, said “about 700 of us are not working today in protest against this blasphemous film.” He continued: “We want to discourage people from making such movies, and we urge the US government to ban the film and prosecute the filmmaker under some law that prevents people from inciting others.”
Also in Srinagar, Bashiruddin Ahmad, who is Indian-held Kashmir’s most senior Islamic cleric, the Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, told all US citizens to “immediately leave” the region, saying “US citizens visiting Kashmir should leave immediately as the sentiments of the Muslims have been hurt by these picture.” He added: “Everyone accepts the greatness of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and any attempt to malign his image will not be tolerated.”
On Sept. 15 in Sydney, several hundred protesters threw rocks and bottles during clashes with police. The demonstration began when about 200 people gathered outside the US consulate and marched through the city center; some carried placards reading “Behead all those who insult the Prophet.”
Several streets were blocked off by police as the protest grew. Police wearing anti-riot equipment, and some on horseback, used dogs and chemical sprays to control the protest. Police later said six officers had been injured and eight protesters arrested. Demonstrators then gathered in a central Sydney park, and a Muslim leader addressed the protesters, calling for calm.