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September 14, 2012

Anti-Islam Film Protests End Peacefully in Pakistan, Afghanistan

by Sharon Behn

Scattered protests around areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan over an American-made anti-Islamic video ended Friday without major incident.

Some 900 protestors gathered in three different areas of Pakistan’s capital, outraged by reports of the film.

Protestors called on the United States envoy to Pakistan to leave the country. Others chanted “God is Great” and anti-U.S. slogans as they marched near the Lal Masjid mosque, a busy market area.

Protestors had planned to march on the U.S. Embassy, which is housed behind a closed-off and guarded enclave in the capital. Tight security along the roads prevented the crowds from getting near the area.

Protestor Abdur Rehman, deputy secretary of the Jamaat AhleSunnat Muslim religious organization, said insults against Islam could not be tolerated.

“Muslims can compromise on everything except the Prophet Muhammad, Peace be Upon Him, and the religion of Islam," he said.

Scattered protests also took place in northwest Pakistan, the southern city of Karachi, and the eastern city of Lahore.

By late afternoon, Pakistan security forces in Islamabad were rolling back razor wire and pulling back cars that they had placed to block several roads around the city’s main government buildings and diplomatic enclave.

Riot police were sitting at the edge of the road, their helmets and shields on the ground, after protestors left.

Hamid Gul, spokesman for  the Islamist group Jammat-ut-Dawa and a former head of Pakistan’s intelligence services, said his group had advised youth not to rise up.

"Because that will only hurt our image," he explained. "They [the United States] want to provoke us to do something which is not in line with the principles of Islam. We don’t want to do such things."

Kashmir-based cleric speaks out

One prominent Muslim cleric Bashiruddin Ahmad, who is based in Indian-controlled Kashmir, said Americans should be proactive and immediately leave Kashmir for their own safety, saying the film may incite unrest in the Muslim-majority valley.
 
Ahmad, who said the film hurts Muslim sentiment and expressed solidarity with protesters around the world, and said countries such as the United States should be careful in releasing such films that could offend Muslims.

Tight security in Kabul

In Afghanistan, there was tight security in place in the capital Kabul and other major cities, but protests all ended without incident.

The lack of violence differed from last year, when more than 20 people were killed in riots in Afghanistan after American pastor Terry Jones burned a copy of the Muslim holy book, the Quran, in Florida.


​​Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.