Pakistan on lockdown as protests over anti-Islam film flare
Hundreds of Pakistanis have come together in the capital Islamabad to protest against the anti-Islam film that has sparked protest across the Middle East.
The vulgar depiction of the Prophet Mohammad in the American-made film has angered Muslims across the world, with many taking to the streets to rally against the film.
The protests came as France stepped up security at its embassies across the Muslim world after a French satirical magazine published crude caricatures of the Prophet. The latest issue of provocative weekly Charlie Hebdo, whose offices were firebombed last year, raised concerns that France could face violent protests.
In Pakistan, a crowd of more than 1,000 people tried to make their way to the US Embassy that houses government offices. Riot police used tear gas and batons to keep demonstrators away from the enclave, and hundreds of shipping containers were lined up to barricade the area.
The Pakistani government has since called a national holiday today so that people can demonstrate peacefully.
This decision drew words of praise from the Pakistani Taliban, who are usually at war with the government. A spokesman for the militant group said it welcomed the decision but also thought the government should expel all American diplomats.
Violence over the amateur film, which portrays the Prophet as a fraud, womaniser and child molester, has left at least 30 people dead in seven countries, including the American ambassador to Libya. Two people so far have died in protests in Pakistan.
The US consulate in Medan, Indonesia shut its doors today for a second day because of demonstrations, while around 50 students from an Islamic university gathered in the country’s city of Makassar and forced a McDonald’s to close.
In Iran, hundreds of students and clerics gathered outside the French embassy in Tehran to protest at the French publication of the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad. Protesters chanted “Death to France” and “Down with the US” and burned the flags of the United States and Israel.
Arab League chief Nabil Elarabi has called the French cartoons “provocative and disgraceful” and said their publication added complexity to an already inflamed situation. He said the drawings arose from ignorance of “true Islam and its holy Prophet”.
A lawsuit was filed against Charlie Hebdo hours after the issue hit news-stands, the Paris prosecutor’s office said.
The French government has ordered its embassies, cultural centres, schools and other official sites to close today in 20 countries. The French foreign ministry has also issued a travel warning urging French citizens in the Muslim world to exercise “the greatest vigilance,” avoiding public gatherings and “sensitive buildings”.