Religious Groups Rally across Pakistan over Anti-Islam Film

Article excerpt

Protests over a film insulting the prophet Muhammad erupted across Pakistan Friday, with participants demanding the government cut off ties with the United States and expel the American ambassador.

Protestors belonging to several religious parties gathered across the city, while members of Jamaat-e-Islami, one of the main religious parties in Pakistan, took to the streets in Karachi, Lahore, and Peshawar. The head of the party, Syed Munawar Hasan, called for cutting off ties with the United States.

The global Muslim community has been deeply hurt by this film and we are coming out on the streets to register our protests. No one can tolerate insults against Islam and the prophet. It is not acceptable, says Maulana Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, an umbrella group of Muslim clerics and scholars based in Islamabad. But we have advised the public to remain calm, since violence cannot bring any results, he adds.

Globally, protesters have already attacked several different Western embassies in the Middle East and Africa, and the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed during an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on Wednesday.

According to Mr. Ashrafi, he and the protestors are targeting the US because the American government has not acted against the filmmaker. By not arresting the filmmaker, it shows the US government is in collusion with him and that is why the protests are anti-American, he adds.

Trouble for the Pakistani government

Analysts in Pakistan believe that protests over the film could grow. Two things are happening in Pakistan with regards to this film. One, the religious parties are using this as an issue, which is normally what they do. Secondly, what is more of a concern is the law-and-order situation, which can put the Pakistani government on spot, says Fahd Husain, a noted columnist and a popular political TV show host.

It has happened in the past that we saw things going out of control, and therefore keeping the public calm can be a great internal security challenge, adds Mr. Husain, referring to violent protests that have erupted in Pakistan in the past, include those in 2005 over Danish cartoons which depicted the prophet Muhammad. …