Lebanon News

Lebanon leaders slam anti-Islam film, killings

Hundreds of Assir supporters held a sit-in in the town of Abra, east of Sidon. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s top political and religious figures condemned Thursday a film made in the U.S. insulting the Prophet Mohammad as well as the killing of U.S. diplomats in Libya during protests against the movie.

President Michel Sleiman said the film is backward and contradicts values the West and Americans believe in.

“It is an appalling film which is backward because it violates public freedom and human rights and all principles of democracy and values in which the West, particularly the Americans, believe,” Sleiman said.

Angered by the film, protesters attacked the U.S. consulate in Libya Wednesday, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three consular staff. Protesters attacked U.S. missions in Yemen and Egypt Thursday, and protests took place in many other countries.

Sleiman also denounced the violent reactions to the film, calling them “unacceptable and unjustified.”

He expressed his condolences to U.S. President Barack Obama via telegram, condemning “this criminal act.”

Prime Minister Najib Mikati also condemned the film, saying it was part of a series of insults against the image of Islam. “The condemnations by religious Islamic and Christian authorities indicate the unanimous rejection of all insults against sacred symbols of Christians and Muslims,” Mikati said.

The prime minister said the bloody reactions are not the appropriate way to defend the values of Islam.

The film, “Innocence of Muslims,” claims the Prophet Mohammad was a fraud and depicts him as a feckless philanderer who approved of child sexual abuse, among other overtly insulting claims that have caused outrage.

The head of Lebanon’s opposition, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, also spoke out against the “suspicious attempts” to ignite strife with the film, as well as the deadly attacks that were part of protests against the movie.

The film, he said, ignites “strife and hatred between religions and peoples at a time when we are working to build bridges of dialogue, understanding and mutual respect.”

Hariri also denounced the “violent reactions” against the film, the killing of Stevens and the attacks that targeted U.S. embassies and consulates.

“Such behavior and aggression, characterized by violence and barbarism, harms Muslims just as the suspicious film did,” Hariri said.

For his part, Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea stressed the need to respect all religions. He underlined the need not to “defame religions, [an act] that could turn cultural interaction among people to collision.”

Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the film “aimed to provoke strife and unrest” and delay the advent of democracy in the Arab world.

Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal Movement held the U.S. administration responsible for not setting limits on the production company for the “seditious movie attacking Islam and the Prophet.”

“The fact that 100 Jewish and American-Israeli capitalists and directors stand behind the film affirms the involvement of these Zionist American groups in this shameful act” to inflame religious conflicts and the war against Islam, it said in a statement.

Early reports suggested an American-Israeli had been behind the film, but U.S. authorities later said the California filmmaker was a Coptic Christian.

The March 14 General Secretariat called on U.S. authorities to take “suitable measures” to hold accountable all sides who funded, promoted and marketed the film via social media.

Calling the film suspicious in its timing and the way it was promoted, the General Secretariat condemned the violent response by Libyan protesters.

Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani said the U.S. could not have been unaware of the consequences of the film.

“The United States, one of the strongest nations in the world which is trying to extend its influence onto the entire world, cannot be unaware of the repercussions of the production of this film or its impact on religion and humanity in the world,” he added.

For his part, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai blasted the film as “shameful.” “The film is not only offensive to Muslims, but to all religions,” Rai said during a news conference in Bkirki.

“We strongly call for the film to be withdrawn,” the patriarch added as he condemned the attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.

Sheikh Abdul-Amir Qabalan, vice president of the Higher Islamic Shiite Council, also criticized the film as a “significant abuse of Islam and Muslims.” It reflects a “deep hatred” by those who produced the film toward Islam and its values, he said.

Qabalan said he believed the best response would be to “boost Muslim-Christian ties to avert strife.”

Head of the Druze Spiritual Council, Sheikh Naim Hasan, condemned the film and the violent reactions to it, saying that enhancing Islamic-Christian unity and dialogue between religions should be the only response.

Separately, dozens of angry demonstrators in the northern city of Tripoli protested against the film in a sit-in in Nour Square, where they set a U.S. flag ablaze. The city was rattled by the sound of gunfire as the protesters returned home. Similar protests are expected after Friday prayers.

Similarly, around 1,000 supporters of Sheikh Ahmad Assir held a sit-in in Bilal Bin Rabah Mosque in the town of Abra, east of Sidon, protesting the film and setting fire to Israeli and U.S. flags. Assir called on his supporters to exercise self-control.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 14, 2012, on page 4.




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