Beirut In a rare public appearance, the leader of Hezbollah exhorted hundreds of thousands of supporters to keep up the campaign against an anti-Islam video that has unleashed anger at the United States across the Muslim world.
Although the massive, well-organized rally in Beirut was peaceful, protesters in Afghanistan set fires near a U.S. military base, clashed with police in Pakistan, where one demonstrator was killed, and battled with officers outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.
The turmoil surrounding the video that mocks the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) showed no sign of ebbing in the week after protesters first swarmed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, died amid a demonstration in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
At least 12 protesters have died in the riots, and the targeting of Western diplomatic sites has forced Washington to increase security in several countries. Diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut destroyed classified material as a security precaution, according to a State Department status report.
The appeal for sustained protests by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group, could stoke more fury over the video, “Innocence of Muslims.” Nasrallah has rarely been seen in public since his group defeated Israel in a month-long war in 2006, fearing Israeli assassination. Since then, he has communicated with his followers and gives news conference mostly via satellite link.
He spoke for about 15 minutes before a rapturous crowd estimated by police at about 500,000, many with headbands of green and yellow the colors of Hezbollah and the words “at your service God’s prophet” written on them.
Nasrallah, who last appeared in public in December 2011 to mark the day of Ashoura, warned of serious repercussions if the U.S. does not ban the film and have it removed from the Internet.
“The world should know that our anger is not a passing thing. … This is the start of a serious campaign that must continue all over the Muslim world in defense of the prophet of God,” he said to roars of support.
“As long as there’s blood in us, we will not remain silent over insults against our prophet,” Nasrallah said, calling for a series of demonstrations this week to denounce the video.
Hezbollah’s rallies seem aimed at keeping the issue alive by bringing out large crowds. But the group also appeared to be trying to ensure it did not spiral into violence.
Notably, Hezbollah held Monday’s protest in its own stronghold of Dahieh in south Beirut, far from the U.S. Embassy in the mountains north of the capital or other international diplomatic missions. Protesters demonstrated their fury by punching their fists in the air as they shouted anti-U.S. and anti-Israel slogans, but remained peaceful.
The movie portrays the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester. Protesters have directed their anger at the U.S. government, insisting it should do something to stop it.
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