Iraq’s top Shiite cleric calls on U.N. to criminalize insults against prophet


The United Nations should criminalize any insults against Prophet Mohammed, Abdul Mehdi al-Karbalai, the representative of the top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Iraq, said during his Friday sermon.

Iraqi protesters burned U.S. and Israeli flags as thousands of people demonstrated for a second day Friday in cities and towns across Iraq against an anti-Islam film that has sparked outrage in the Muslim world.

Karbalai said that “these repeated abuses could threaten peaceful life, especially among (religiously) mixed peoples.”

He also condemned violence in response to the film, which portrays the Prophet Mohammed and Islam in a negative light, and sparked deadly fury in Libya, where four Americans including the ambassador were killed on Tuesday in a mob attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.

In the biggest protest, thousands of people turned out in the southern port city of Basra, carrying Iraqi flags and shouting slogans including: “There is no freedom by abuses to the feelings of two billion Muslims.”

The protesters burned American and Israeli flags, an AFP correspondent said.

Hundreds of people also protested in the Sunni-majority Adhamiyah area of north Baghdad after Friday prayers, while dozens of people, mainly from various Shiite parties, also demonstrated in the capital’s Tahrir Square.

In Sunni-majority Ramadi, west of Baghdad, hundreds of people demonstrated against the film.

Hamid al-Fahdawi, one of the protest organizers, told AFP that demonstrators want the Iraqi government to dismiss the U.S. ambassador and cut economic ties with the United States.

Dozens of demonstrators also turned out in the former Sunni insurgent stronghold of Fallujah, also west of the Iraqi capital.

Sadr al-Din al-Qubanchi, a senior Shiite cleric who leads Friday prayers in the shrine city of Najaf, called for the United States to apologize to Muslims and surrender all those who worked on the film to a special Islamic court.

The governor of Nineveh province, Atheel al-Nujaifi attended a demonstration against the film in Mosul, in north Iraq.

There were also protests in various cities in Diyala province, and in other cities and towns including Hilla, Amara and Nasiriyah.