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Nasrallah calls for more film protests

  • An image grab taken from Lebanon's Hezbollah-run Manar TV shows Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah delivering a televised speech from an undisclosed location on September 16, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/MANAR TV)

  • An Army tank stationed outside the Burger King branch of the coastal city of Sidon.

BEIRUT/TRIPOLI: Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called Sunday for more protests in Lebanon against a film produced in the U.S. that insults the Prophet Mohammad. Nasrallah also accused the White House of seeking to sow strife between Christians and Muslims.

“The ones who should be held accountable and boycotted are those who support and protect the producers, namely the U.S. administration,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech.

Nasrallah described attempts by the United States to halt the broadcasting on the Internet of “Innocence of Muslims” – a film that has led to protests and acts of violence against U.S. and foreign missions in the Arab world – as disingenuous.

“The movie was produced in the U.S., and here the Muslim world is asking the American administration to stop broadcasting the movie and prevent the release of the full version, as well as holding accountable those who attacked the dignity of a billion-and-half people in the world,” he said.

“But the U.S. administration says that it will do nothing, citing the idea we all know of freedom of speech and American principles.”

Nasrallah called for an international resolution to prohibit insults against religion and called for passing laws in the U.S. that criminalize such acts.

The Hezbollah chief said the motivation behind the film was to stir discord between Christians and Muslims leading to bloodshed.

“There are goals for such an insult to Islam and its Prophet ... one of these is to incite strife between Muslims and Christians and to drag them into a religious, sectarian and bloody conflict,” Nasrallah said.

“We call for protests tomorrow [Monday] in the southern suburbs [of Beirut] at 5 p.m.”

Nasrallah also called for demonstrations around Lebanon, including in Tyre Wednesday and in Hermel Sunday.

Meanwhile, Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour urged Arab League chief Nabil Elarabi to call for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss the film and formulate a proper response.

Protests against the film continued in Lebanon Sunday, with a group burning U.S. and Israeli flags in the northern city of Tripoli. Hundreds of cars and motorcycles took part in a procession on the main highway from Beddawi to Tripoli in protest against the film.

Participants carried black banners and flags of the Syrian uprising, chanting slogans against Israel and the Syrian regime. The rally concluded at Tripoli’s Nour Square, where U.S. and Israeli flags were burned. No businesses were damaged, but protests Friday left one dead and saw rioters torch a KFC and a Hardees.

Following the violence, security was high in Sidon and Beirut over the weekend, especially around U.S.-based fast food chains. Soldiers backed by armored vehicles took up position at the entrances of establishments such as KFC, McDonalds, Burger King and Pizza Hut in Sidon. Similar measures were taken in Beirut.

The centers of Sidon’s roundabouts were draped in black banners protesting the film, reading “if they knew you, they would have loved you.”

Although U.S. fast food restaurants in Sidon were empty, customers – including women in veils and members of the Indonesian UNIFIL contingent – could be seen passing through the doors of a local KFC in Tyre.

Speaking to The Daily Star from Sidon over the weekend, an Al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya official said Muslims should confront attacks on their religion in a more civilized manner. “Muslims are hurt, but we should be logical, behaving in a civilized not unethical manner,” Bassam Hammoud said.

The movie has caused outrage in several predominantly Muslim countries. In Libya, angry demonstrators stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi earlier this week in an attack that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American officials.

Future Movement MP Samir Jisr condemned the violent protests in his hometown of Tripoli, saying that such behavior damages the city and contradicts Muslim teachings.

“What happened in Tripoli [Friday] is harmful to the city and its heritage as well as Islam because it departs from its teachings,” Jisr said in a statement.

“[The acts] also harm whoever worked in [those establishments] along with job opportunities for dozens of people; lastly, it is an assault on the state and people’s security.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 17, 2012, on page 4.
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