BEIRUT: Hezbollah’s leader called Sunday for a series of protests in Lebanon against a recent film produced in the U.S. that insults the Prophet Mohammad and accused the White House of seeking to sow strife between Christians and Muslims.
“I have called for the protest in [Beirut’s] southern suburb as part of the movement that should continue in Lebanon and the Arab world,” Nasrallah said in a televised speech on Al-Manar television.
“Tomorrow, and in the coming days you should bear your responsibility in the Arab world the world as a whole. They should see the rage in your faces and feel it in your screams,” he added.
He said Monday’s protest in the southern suburb, which will commence at 5 p.m., would be followed by demonstrations in various parts of the country including Baalbek, in the east, and Bint Jbeil, in the south.
Nasrallah described “Innocence of Muslims” - a low-budget production which originated in the U.S. that has sparked outrage and sometimes violent protests in predominantly Muslim countries – as an “unprecedented” insult against Muslims.
On Sept.12, a day following the beginning of protests against the film began, a U.S. ambassador and three other staff members were killed when the U.S. Consulate in Libya was attacked. The U.S. says the assault began with a “spontaneous” protest over the video.
During his speech, Nasrallah said the U.S. administration should be held accountable for the production and broadcasting of the short film and described as disingenuous attempts by the U.S. to halt its availability on the Internet.
“The ones who should be held accountable and boycotted are those who support and protect the producers, namely the U.S. administration,” the Hezbollah chief said.
"The movie was produced in the United State 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 added.
The Hezbollah leader said the U.S. refused to meet the demands of the Muslim world to withdraw the video, which is available in some countries on the popular video-sharing website YouTube, and said the administration of President Barack Obama was hiding behind America’s “freedom of speech.”
“The U.S. administration assures us that it will do nothing, citing the idea we all know of freedom of speech and American principles,” Nasrallah said.
Nasrallah said the aim behind the film was to stir discord between Christians and Muslims.
“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 to a religious, sectarian and bloody conflict,” he said, urging the Muslim community to respond to such insults.
“[The insult to Muslim] requires a huge stance by the Muslim community that is commensurate with such a danger and aggression,” he said.
"It is not enough to express our anger via protesting in front of American embassies here and there but we should pressure our countries to in turn pressure the U.S. Administration for the need to respect our prophet and religion,” he said.
Last week Obama said he had ordered his administration to do whatever was necessary to protect Americans abroad and that aides had been in contact with other governments "to let them know they've got a responsibility to protect our citizens."
Protests over “Innocence of Muslims” have failed to abate in many parts of the Arab world despite Arab and Western leaders having condemned the film.
In Lebanon last week, one Lebanese protester was killed and more than 27 others were injured when stone-throwing demonstrators protesting an anti-Islam film clashed with Lebanese authorities in the northern city of Tripoli. In Friday’s violence, protesters also set fire to two U.S. food chains. Authorities in Tripoli and Sidon, south Lebanon, have responded by boosting security around such venues.
The U.S. Embassy in Awkar, north of Beirut, has also bolstered its security measures. The Army and police boosted their numbers at several points along the road leading to the embassy, deploying special units from the military and Internal Security Forces, according to a Daily Star reporter on the scene.
During his speech Sunday, Nasrallah also echoed calls by MP Walid Jumblatt last week for the global criminalization of insults against religions similar to those adopted in West against anti-Semitism.
He said the solution to prevent the recurrence of such incidents is to “work on issuing an international law throughout global institutions that criminalizes any insult against the celestial religions or at least to the prophets of the religions.”
Nasrallah also urged Muslim communities in the U.S. to “bear a historic responsibility” and rally for such a law to be issued in Congress.
He also urged the Lebanese government to work at the Arab League level to lobby for such a law.
"Lebanon, which carries the message of co-existence, can play a role in this ... by calling for an emergency meeting of the Arab League and call for the convening of an Islamic summit and adopt ideas [such as criminalizing religious insults].”
Shortly following Nasrallah’s speech, Lebanon’s Foreign Affairs Minister Adnan Mansour urged the head of the Arab League to convene an emergency session to discuss the issue, according to Al-Manar.
Nasrallah said he had delayed announcing the call for protests because of the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon.
“We delayed the protest because of the exceptional days that have passed with the head of the Catholic Church's visit to Lebanon and fearing that [the protest] could be used for other purposes,” Nasrallah said.