Violent protests are continuing to reverberate across the Muslim world following the recent release of a trailer for the anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims'.
The film, directed by amateur US filmmaker Sam Bacine, depicts the prophet Mohammed as an ignorant, child-abusing philanderer. Despite the poor turnout and negative critical reception of the Hollywood premiere of the film back in July this year, the movie has now been afforded a worldwide audience this month after the 15-minute YouTube trailer, dubbed into Egyptian Arabic by Coptic Christian Morris Sadek, was broadcast on Egyptian Islamic television station Al-Nas TV. The station and its anchors are now facing legal action over the broadcast.
The majority of Muslim countries avoid visual depictions of Mohammed as the Islamic faith has historically focused its religious art on the written word and inscriptions. Attempts to depict the prophet in human form are often considered an affront to his spiritual status.
Three days after the release of the dubbed trailer, outraged Egyptian protesters stormed the American embassy in Cairo. In Benghazi, Libyan extremists and citizens attacked the American consulate, leading to the deaths of US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, two security guards and US computer expert Sean Smith. Recent reports suggest that Libya may have warned the US of a planned attack two days previously. However Susan Rice, the American ambassador to the UN, has stressed that the attack was spontaneous: "A small number of people came to the consulate. It seems to have been hijacked by some individual clusters of extremists who came with heavier weapons... and it then evolved from there."The US has since withdrawn its diplomats from Tunisia and Sudan owing to fears over elevated violence.
The violence in Benghazi was denounced by the newly elected Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur, who tweeted: "I condemn these barbaric attacks in the strongest possible terms. This is an attack on America, Libya and free people everywhere". Libyan officials emphasised that the extremist actions were perpetrated by a minority and did not reflect the views of Libya as a whole.
On Monday, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbollah movement, made a rare public appearance to call for renewed demonstrations against the film. Nasrallah said that the world needed to know that Muslims "would not be silent in the face of this insult". The Prime Minister of Pakistan Raja Pervez Ashraf has ordered for the suspension of YouTube for hosting footage of the provocative film.
On Tuesday, an Afghan suicide bomber drove into a bus carrying foreigners through Kabul. Fourteen people were killed, most of them were non-Afghan nationals. Insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami has claimed responsibility for the blast, which they claim they carried out in reaction to the video.
Some rebel fighters in Syria have expressed their resentment over the hypocrisy of anti-Western protests being held there, which they claim distract from the atrocities being committed internally by their own regime.
Violent protests continue to spread across North Africa and the Middle East. Protesters have primarily targeted US consulates, embassies and business interests as well as property belonging to the British, German, Dutch and Swiss.
The reactionary protests, ferociously anti-American in sentiment, serve as a potent reminder of the outrage over perceived Western imperialism that continues to rage throughout the Islamic world.