Protests Erupt Across Pakistan Over Video

Posted September 21st, 2012 at 7:45 am (UTC-5)
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Protests are being held in cities across Pakistan against an Internet video that demonstrators say insults the Prophet Muhammad.

Friday has been designated a national holiday and “a day of love for the Prophet Muhammad,” with police urging demonstrators to protest peacefully.

The Pakistani television station, ARY, said one of its employees was killed Friday in the northeastern city of Peshawar after police reportedly opened fire on protesters who torched a cinema.

Also Friday, a small group of Pakistani protesters threw shoes at posters denouncing the United States, Britain, Israel, and author Salman Rushdie in front of the Punjab Provincial Assembly in Lahore.

Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said Pakistan has a “collective responsibility” to protest peacefully without causing harm or damage to life and property.

U.S. embassies across the Islamic world remain on high alert for protests connected with Friday prayers.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Hoagland met Friday with Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the controversial video. Hoagland reiterated U.S. condemnation of the video and emphasized the U.S. government had nothing to do with it. He said the video does not reflect the values of the United States.

Pakistani media said the government called on the army to protect Islamabad's diplomatic enclave, where 15,000 people were expected to march.

Cell phone service was blocked in 15 Pakistani cities, including the capital, Islamabad, and the eastern city of Lahore.

The low-budget Internet video was produced by an anti-Muslim filmmaker in California. It first sparked protests last week in Cairo and the Libyan city of Benghazi, where U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other embassy personnel were killed. Since then, anti-U.S. protests have spread as far as Indonesia.

The U.S. embassy in Pakistan is airing a public service advertisement on Pakistani television that features President Barack Obama denouncing the video.

Mr. Ashraf told a conference of religious leaders and politicians in Islamabad that Pakistan is demanding the United Nations and other international organizations seek a law that bans “such hate speech, equal to the worst kind of anti-Semitism or other kinds of bigotry.”

The French news agency says police in Paris have banned two anti-U.S. protests planned for Saturday.

The French weekly Charlie Hebdo featured several images of the Prophet Muhammad in its Wednesday issue, including several of him naked.

The French government announced it is closing its embassies, consulates, cultural centers and schools in 20 countries Friday as a precautionary measure.