Clashes resume in Cairo as U.S. says anti-Islam film ‘disgusting, reprehensible’


Clashes between protesters and Egyptian Central Security Forces continued near the U.S. embassy in central Cairo on Friday as demonstrators insisted on voicing their rage over a film produced in the U.S. that mocks Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood on Friday withdrew calls for nationwide protests in response to a film that mocks Islam’s Prophet Mohammed, saying they would instead participate in a “symbolic” demonstration.

“In light of the events of the last two days, the Brotherhood has decided to participate only in a symbolic protest in Tahrir Square, so that there is no more destruction to property, or injuries, or deaths, as has happened in the past,” the group’s secretary general Mahmud Hussein said in a statement.

While clashes remain on-going on the fringes of Cairo’s Tahrir Square, several groups condemned the violence, while also calling for a peaceful million-man rally on Friday.

Torrents of teargas continued to greet the hundreds of protesters still hurling stones at Central Security Forces deployed around the U.S. embassy's precincts.

The demonstrations first erupted on Tuesday when news of the film entitled 'The Innocence of Muslims’ reached the wider Egyptian public. The film, originally thought to have been made by U.S.-based Coptic-Christian activists, was produced by Israeli-American filmmaker Sam Bacile.

The film, ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ that has outraged Muslims around the world is an amateurish production. It sparked an attack in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in the Libyan city of Benghazi, clashes in Yemen in which four people were killed when demonstrators tried to storm the U.S. embassy and violent protests outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo.

The film denigrating the Prophet Mohammed was promoted by evangelical and Coptic Christians living in the United States. The U.S. government has strongly condemned the film.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Thursday that Washington had nothing to do with the crudely made film posted on the Internet, which she called “disgusting and reprehensible.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. boosted security at its embassies amid fears of a tide of anti-American violence sparked by the film after Friday’s Muslim prayers.

In Yemen, a group which organized anti-regime protests that brought down strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, called for countrywide demonstrations Friday, a day after four people died in the capital Sana’a when police fired on protesters trying to storm the U.S. mission.

And in Jordan, Salafist militants have said they plan to demonstrate outside the U.S. embassy in Amman after the Muslim main weekly prayers.

Protests have spread across the Middle East and further afield, including to Bangladesh, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Gaza Strip, Kuwait, Sudan and Tunisia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon late Thursday appealed for calm in North Africa and the Middle East after a film deemed insulting to Islam sparked riots across the Arab world.

In a statement issued by the U.N. press office ahead of Friday prayers and further planned demonstrations in some Muslim nations, Ban reiterated his condemnation of the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americas in Benghazi on Tuesday.

Ban is “deeply disturbed” by the eruption of deadly anti-U.S. violence in Libya and other Middle East countries caused by the film which mocks Islam, a U.N. spokeswoman Vannina Maestracci said, according to AFP.

“The Secretary-General is deeply disturbed by the recent violence in Libya and elsewhere in the Middle East,” the statement said. “Nothing justifies such killings and attacks. He condemns the hateful film that appears to have been deliberately designed to sow bigotry and bloodshed.”

“At this time of rising tensions, the Secretary-General calls for calm and restraint, and stresses the need for dialogue, mutual respect and understanding,” it added, according to Reuters.

Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Ahmed Hussein has backed calls for a Friday protest. He was quoted as saying by Egypt’s Ahram Online that the Brotherhood was calling for demonstrations in front of all major mosques throughout Egypt’s provinces to condemn the assault on Islamic religious sentiment.

Egypt’s Salafist Nour Party, meanwhile, likewise condemned the on-going embassy clashes. In a Thursday statement, the party said that it “strongly condemns using violence and vandalism to express our objections to this offensive work, especially if protesting involves attacking embassies and terrorising diplomatic missions.”

Both groups called for resorting to legal action. The Nour Party called for prosecuting the filmmakers, while Muslim Brotherhood lawyers have already filed a lawsuit towards this end, according to the report by Ahram Online.

Nour Party spokesman Nader Bakkar told al-Ahram’s Arabic-language news website on Thursday that efforts were currently underway by young Salafist and Brotherhood cadres to cordon the embassy grounds off from aggressive protesters.

Tareq al-Zomor, spokesman for Egypt’s Gamaa Islamiya movement, had earlier described the removal of the embassy flag as “illegal and against Islamic Law.” The group also declared its intention to participate in the planned Friday protest, Ahram Online reported.

Egypt’s prominent al-Azhar has called for “level-headedness” when dealing with attacks on Islam and its symbols, while warning Muslims against directing their anger towards innocent parties.