CAIRO - Egyptian authorities on Wednesday called for restraint in the face of outrage over a film deemed offensive to Islam that has raised fears of renewed sectarian tensions.
The cabinet said Tuesday’s protests which saw demonstrators scale the walls of the US embassy in Cairo were “regrettable” and that it was Egypt’s duty to protect all diplomatic missions. The statement came in response to a film portraying the life of the Holy Prophet that sparked a deadly attack in Libya that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US officials dead. Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi tasked the Egyptian embassy in Washington to “take all legal measure against the producers of the film that is offensive to Holy Prophet,” the official MENA news agency said.
The government called on Egyptians to exercise restraint, but the country’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mursi emerged, called for new nationwide protests.
Coptic activists in Egypt said they planned to stage their own protest against the film later Wednesday outside US missions in Egypt and Libya to condemn “all sorts of contempt or disdain against any religion”.
Egyptian media have said that some Egyptian Copts living in the US were involved in the production of the film, which was produced by Israeli-American Sam Bacile, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Afghanistan’s government meanwhile blocked YouTube for nearly 90 minutes to discourage people from watching the film that it called an “inhuman and insulting act”. Iran blamed the US for what it called the “repulsive” movie.
“The American government has the responsibility to stop this dangerous trend in the spreading of insults to Islamic Umma’s (nation’s) highest sanctities,” said foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum, in a statement on his Facebook page, condemned the film as “disgraceful, racist and an insult to the feeling of every Muslim in the world.”
“We want to stop all disregard of principles and human values, to put an end to all these misguided policies, and we want respect for Muslim rights.” Tens of Palestinians gathered outside the UN headquarters in Gaza City to protest against the film on Wednesday afternoon, burning American flags and pictures of a US pastor who has reportedly backed the movie.
Hundreds of protesters upset over the movie demonstrated outside the American consulate in Morocco’s largest city Casablanca. The protesters, numbering between 300 and 400 mostly young activists, gathered around 200 metres (yards) from the consulate amid a heavy police presence.
The Casablanca protest appeared to have been called spontaneously, via social media networks, and without the involvement of any particular organisation. Similar protests against the film were held outside the US embassies in Sudan and Tunisia, Tunis.