BEIRUT: Political and religious leaders called Tuesday for international legal action against an anti-Islam film that has sparked waves of protest in several countries, including Lebanon.
Grand Mufti Mohammad Rashid Qabbani called for a Christian-Muslim spiritual summit to be held on Sept. 24 to discuss repeated attacks against Islam.
The summit would also discuss the Apostolic Exhortation for the Middle East which was signed by Pope Benedict XVI during a visit to Beirut over the weekend.
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai reiterated his earlier call on the United Nation to issue a resolution on the film.
“We call on the U.N. to issue a resolution because respecting God and religions is necessary for world peace,” Rai said at Rafik Hariri International Airport before he left for India.
“I called – before [Sayyed Hasan] Nasrallah – on the United States [to ban the film]. I said the movie was not only an insult to Islam but to every other religion,” the patriarch said in response to a question on his position regarding the Hezbollah leader’s demand that the U.S. prohibit film.
Beirut MP Imad Hout, a member of Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya, urged governments in the Arab and Muslim worlds to push for the promulgation of an international law that prohibits insulting religions.
“International law must endorse a convention for protecting religions. It has taken similar measures in previous situations,” Hout told The Daily Star, citing the Holocaust as an example.
Denying the Holocaust is illegal in many countries.
Hout’s remarks come amid often violent protests in the Arab world in response to a low-budget U.S.-made film entitled “Innocence of Muslims,” which portrays the Prophet Mohammad as immoral and gratuitously violent.
Hout accused groups affiliated with the pro-Syrian regime March 8 alliance of being involved in the violence in Tripoli during a demonstration against the anti-Islam movie, which has sparked global protests.
“The groups that carried out the recent acts in the city of Tripoli in north Lebanon in reaction to the film belong to the March 8 group,” Hout said.
Protesters vandalized KFC and Hardee’s restaurants in Tripoli Friday before setting them on fire. One protester was also killed.
“We strongly condemn the movie; however, if we want to defend the Prophet, we must try to shine the spotlight on his ethics, and show the real picture of him,” Hout said.
The lawmaker suggested that Arab countries launch campaigns introducing the Prophet Mohammad and his morals to both the West and the Arabs, instead of resorting to violent protests that only distort their image.
“Some Western groups – the Zionist lobby mainly – seem to be upset at the Arab Spring, and thus attempt to undermine it by provoking Arabs,” he said.
Asked about the steps undertaken by Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya in Lebanon to protest the movie, Hout said his group has hung banners in the coastal city of Sidon and other areas reminding people of the Prophet’s ethics.
“We have also made several calls to suggest endorsing an international law that punishes anyone who attacks religions,” he said.
Meanwhile the Future parliamentary bloc, which met Tuesday, also condemned the anti-Islam film and said “it serves the interests of the enemies of Arabs and Muslims.”
The bloc said the film aims at “sowing strife between different religions and inciting hatred,” and similarly called for international resolutions that ban attacks on all religions.
The Future lawmakers also condemned violent reactions to the film, contending that such actions only serve the agenda of those behind it.
March 14 MP Butros Harb said he would be willing to join with other lawyers to file a lawsuit against the makers of the film, describing its content as harmful to coexistence.
“I am willing to participate in filing a lawsuit against the filmmakers,” Harb, a lawyer, said at his office in Hazmieh, southeast of Beirut.
The Batroun MP added that the film harms not only Islam but also “all monotheistic religions, the Arab Spring and the formula of coexistence.”
“Resorting to protests is justified, but the optimal solution is via a legal framework,” he said.
Grand Mufti Sheikh Mohammad Rashid Qabbani contacted Harb later Tuesday and welcomed his initiative.
In the southern city of Tyre, Hezbollah will hold a protest Wednesday in line with an earlier call by Nasrallah, who personally led a mass rally in Beirut’s southern suburbs Monday.