NEW PROTESTS AND TWO DEATHS IN PAKISTAN
Demonstrations against an anti-Islam film, fueled by the publication in France of caricatures of Muhammad, resumed locally on Friday, the day of the great prayer in Muslim countries, in Indonesia and Pakistan where a man died of his wounds and two cinemas were burned down.
For ten days, more than thirty people have died in demonstrations directed against the film “The Innocence of Muslims”, produced in the United States and an extract of which is circulating on the internet.
In Pakistan, where authorities declared Friday a national holiday in honor of the Prophet Muhammad, two cinemas in the large northwestern city, Peshawar, were set on fire by angry protesters.
At least 15 people, including three police officers, were injured in the scuffles, according to Lady Reading Hospital doctor Mukhtar Khan.
“We have received 15 injured so far, including three police officers . Some were shot, others suffered from tear gas and still others received stones thrown by demonstrators,” said the doctor.
The driver of the private Pakistani television channel ARY news , who was among the injured, eventually died, medical sources said later.
Minor clashes also broke out in Rawalpindi, twin city of Islamabad, according to an AFP photographer on the spot.
In Indonesia, a few dozen members of the Islamist party Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) burned the American flag in front of the United States consulate in Medan (Sumatra) while brandishing banners on which one could read: “Insulting the Prophet Muhammad deserves the death” and “Israel and America are terrorist nations”.
About 200 people also demonstrated in front of the French consulate in Surabaya (East Java) to cries of “Death to America, death to France”.
“We urge America and France to stop insulting our prophet,” a speaker told the crowd, responding “Allahu akbar!” (God is the greatest).
Scuffles had previously pitted several hundred police officers against protesters who attacked a restaurant of the American fast-food chain McDonalds.
Westerners, led by Paris, fear that the publication of the cartoons in France will increase tensions and lead to new outbursts on Friday.
Small rallies were held Thursday in Kabul and Tehran. A few hundred Afghans thus gathered without violence to protest both against the film and against the publication on Wednesday by the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo of very crude caricatures of Muhammad.
The representation of the prophet is strictly prohibited in the Muslim religion.
In Tehran, around 100 protesters gathered outside the French Embassy on Thursday, shouting “death to America”, “death to Israel” and “death to France”, but were kept at a distance by police .
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged French nationals in Muslim countries to be cautious , advising them “preferably” to stay at home on Friday. He also said he was “concerned” for French soldiers in Afghanistan and Lebanon.
Paris ordered the closure of French embassies, consulates and schools in some 20 Muslim countries on Friday .
The United States announced on Thursday that it had bought advertising space on Pakistani television channels to broadcast spots aimed at calming the anger of Muslims against the film.
The American justice rejected Thursday the request of an actress who participated in the film who demanded her withdrawal from the website of YouTube videos in the United States, according to the Superior Court of Los Angeles.
YouTube, owned by Google, has restricted access to the film in several countries, starting with Egypt and Libya, where the violence started. Other countries, such as Pakistan and Sudan, have themselves blocked access to the video, which denigrates the figure of the Prophet Muhammad.
The anti-Islam film, of poor cinematic quality, claims to tell the life of Muhammad, and presents the prophet and Muslims in general as immoral and violent.
In this context, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reaffirmed Wednesday evening that the film was “scandalous” and “shameful”. “Freedom of expression, which is a fundamental right and a privilege, must not be abused, by an act as outrageous and shameful” as this film, he declared.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has called for global action against incitement to hatred.
“It is time for the international community to take seriously the dangerous implications of hate speech (…) and to block the way to those who hide behind freedom of expression “, declared its secretary general
In France, a debate has also developed on this right considered fundamental in Western democracies.
“Freedom of caricature is part of this fundamental right,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls noted on Wednesday. But the head of diplomacy Laurent judged that these caricatures threw “oil on the fire”.
In Paris, security has been tightened around the building housing the editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo , and any demonstration of protest against the film or the cartoons will be prohibited, the government has warned.
France has the largest Muslim community in Europe, between 4 and 6 million people, mostly from Africa and the Maghreb.
The United States also announced on Tuesday “strong measures” to protect embassies and consulates, advising their nationals on Thursday to postpone all “non-essential” travel to Pakistan.
Tunisia announced on Thursday that it would ban all demonstrations on Friday, because of the risk of “violence”.