Film protest: Egypt PM urges US to end 'insults'

Egypt's PM Hisham Qandil: "Unacceptable to insult our Prophet"

Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has said the US must do all it can to stop people insulting Islam.

In an interview with BBC Arabic, Mr Qandil said it was "unacceptable to insult our Prophet" but also not right for peaceful protests to turn violent.

His comments come amid protests in the Middle East and north Africa over an anti-Islam film made in the US.

A man suspected of being involved in making in the film is being questioned by US probation officers.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has denied involvement in the film, clips of which have been posted online.

The film has sparked violent protests in several countries, leaving at least seven people dead.

US embassies and Western businesses have been attacked, including the US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, where the ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

The US has increased security at its overseas missions. It wants to send Marines to protect its embassy in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, but Sudan has rejected the request, saying it was able to handle security itself.

Start Quote

This is a small number of people doing irresponsible work and everybody's paying the price”

End Quote Hisham Qandil Egyptian Prime Minister

Mr Qandil said the film had been made by "wicked" amateurs, but that while it was "unacceptable to insult our Prophet" it was also "unjustifiable to have a peaceful demo turned violent".

The Egyptian authorities have taken measures to ensure the safety of foreign diplomatic missions in Egypt, he said, but all sides needed now to improve their view of each other.

"Egyptians, Arabs, Muslims - we need to reflect the true identity of Muslims, how peaceful they are, and talk to the Western media about the true heart of the Muslims, that they condemn violence," said Mr Qandil.

"At the same time we need to reach a balance between freedom of expression and to maintain respect for other peoples' beliefs."

When asked whether he thought the US should change its laws governing freedom of speech laws, he replied: "I think we need to work out something around this because we cannot wait and see this happen again."

"This is a small number of people doing irresponsible work and everybody's paying the price."

The link between the US and Egypt was, he said, "a relationship that we need to make stronger based on mutual interests and respect for sovereignty".

He also called on the US, and other governments, to "take the necessary measures to ensure that insulting billions of people, one-and-a-half billion people, in their belief in their Prophet, that should not happen, and if it happens people should pay for what they do, and at the same time we need to make sure that the reflection the true Egyptians or Muslims is also well-reflected in the Western media".

The US has historically had a close relationship to Egypt, but earlier this week President Barack Obama said of Cairo: "I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy."

"They are a new government that's trying to find its way... I think we have to see how they respond to this incident."

Film-maker suspect

Any portrayal of the Prophet is considered blasphemous to Muslims, but the film, a low-budget, amateurish production called Innocence of Muslims, depicts him as a womaniser and leader of a group of bloodthirsty men.

It also touched on themes of paedophilia and homosexuality.

The exact origin of the film and motivation behind it are still unclear and much misleading information has been circulated about its production.

The original posting of a 14-minute trailer for the film on Youtube came from an account linked to the name 'sambacile'. Clips have also been shown on Arabic TV channels.

No film-maker by the name of Sam Bacile has been traced, and the US authorities suspect Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of using the pseudonym.

Nakoula, who has has a criminal record for bank fraud and drug offences, volunteered for questioning and was escorted from his home by officials early on Saturday, according to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

'Denounce without anger'

Protests against the film began on Tuesday, in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

Protesters clash with police in Sydney, Australia (15 Sept 2012) Protesters and police clashed in Sydney's business district

They then spread to Libya - where the ambassador, US officials and Libyan consulate staff were killed when the consulate was set on fire on Tuesday.

An insurgent group is suspected of taking advantage of the protests to launch an ambush.

Angry protests have also erupted in countries including Sudan, Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey.

There were clashes between Muslim protesters and police in Sydney, Australia on Saturday. Police used pepper spray to disperse the crowds as they tried to enter the US consulate building.

On Saturday, insurgents attacked Nato's heavily fortified Camp Bastion base in southern Afghanistan, killing at least two US Marines. The Taliban told the BBC it had carried out the attack in revenge for the film.

Western and Middle Eastern leaders have called for calm.

Grand Mufti Sheik Abdel-Aziz al-Sheik, the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, said Muslims should "denounce it without anger".

"Muslims should not be dragged by wrath and anger to shift from legitimate to forbidden action and by this, they will, unknowingly, fulfil some aims of the film," the Associated Press news agency quoted him as saying.

The European Union has urged leaders in Arab and Muslim countries to "call immediately for peace and restraint".

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