Lebanon Hezbollah head rallies against anti-Muslim film

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah addresses thousands of supporters who took to the streets of southern Beirut to denounce a film mocking Islam on September 17, 2012. Hezbollah's leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah had not appeared in public since December 2011

The leader of Lebanon's Shia movement Hezbollah has appeared in public for the first time since December 2011 to denounce the amateur anti-Islam film which has sparked worldwide protests.

Speaking at a rally in Beirut, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said the US faces "very dangerous" repercussions if it allows the full video to be released.

New protests erupted around the Muslim world on Monday over the US-made video.

Violent demonstrations were held in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

At least one protester was killed in protests in Pakistan and thousands attended an angry rally in the Philippines city of Marawi.

Weapons were fired and police cars torched in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

Analysis

When Hassan Nasrallah suddenly appeared on the podium in person, there was almost a stampede as the crowd of tens of thousands of his supporters surged towards him.

They're used to seeing him at such occasions - but on a big screen via a video link from a secret location.

Nasrallah knows he is under constant threat, especially after the 2006 war. His predecessor, Abbas Musawi, was killed in a pinpoint Israeli air strike in 1992.

His appearance, and the delivery of a full, if brief, 12-minute speech, was a measure of the importance he attaches to what he says is the most serious insult to Islam in living memory.

He had told his supporters to let the world see their anger in their faces, their fists and their slogans.

But there was not a hint of violence or menace in the air, in contrast to disturbances by Sunni militants in Tripoli, north Lebanon, last Friday, when they clashed with police and set fire to American fast food outlets.

'Worst attack'

In Beirut, Hassan Nasrallah addressed a huge protest in Hezbollah's stronghold in the south of the city.

He said the world did not understand the "breadth of the humiliation" caused by the "worst attack ever on Islam".

It is rare for the influential head of the Shia Muslim militant group to appear in public - he usually addresses his supporters via videolink for fear of assassination.

Women supporters of Lebanon"s Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah wave Hezbollah, Amal movement and Lebanese flags as they march at an anti-U.S. protest in Beirut"s southern suburbs September 17, 2012. Tens of thousands of Hezbollah supporters attended a segregated rally to denounce the anti-Islam film

The BBC's Jim Muir in Beirut says that in contrast to other protests held over the last week against the film, including one in north Lebanon which left one person dead, there was no violence at the Hezbollah rally.

Thousands of people were on the streets of Beirut, waving flags and chanting, "America, hear us - don't insult our Prophet".

Sheikh Nasrallah had earlier called for a week of protests - not only against American embassies, but also to press Muslim governments to express their own anger to the US.

More than a dozen people have died since last Tuesday in protests sparked by the appearance on Youtube of a trailer for the obscure, poorly made film, which is entitled Innocence of Muslims.

Pakistan deaths

Youtube told the BBC it would not remove the trailer as it was within its guidelines but it had restricted access to the clip in countries where its content was illegal "such as India and Indonesia as well as in Libya and Egypt".

At least one protester was killed in Pakistan on Monday as violent demonstrations were reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the country's biggest city, Karachi.

Pakistan, as predicted, has blocked access to Youtube, accusing it of failing to remove blasphemous material.

Protests' timeline

11 September: US embassy in Cairo, Egypt, attacked; flag torn down and replaced with an Islamist banner.

Mob attacks US consulate in Benghazi, Libya; US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed.

12 September: Anti-US protests take place in several Arab countries.

13 September: Protesters break into the US embassy compound in Sanaa, Yemen, amid clashes with security forces. More violence in Cairo.

14 September: At least seven people are killed in demonstrations as protests spread around the world.

15 September: Taliban militants attack Nato's heavily fortified Camp Bastion over the film, killing two US marines.

16 September: There are protests in some European capitals. Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah calls for a week of protests in Lebanon.

17 September: At least one person is killed in clashes between protesters and police in Pakistan. In Afghanistan; Kabul's police chief injured by stone-throwing protesters.

More protests were reported in Srinagar, in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Elsewhere

  • About 3,000 protesters from the Philippines Muslim minority burned US and Israeli flags in the southern city of Marawi
  • In Yemen, hundreds of students in the capital, Sanaa, called for the expulsion of the US ambassador
  • In Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, hundreds of protesters faced off with police, throwing stones and petrol bombs, while police retaliated with tear gas
  • Hundreds of Palestinians staged a peaceful sit-in protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah
  • Angry demonstrators in the Afghan capital, Kabul, fired guns, torched police cars and shouted anti-US slogans
  • Police arrested at least 15 people at a small protest outside the US embassy in Azerbaijan's capital, Baku

In a BBC interview, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said the film was "wrong and offensive but also laughable as a piece of film-making".

"What is dangerous and wrong is the reaction to it," said Mr Blair, who now serves as a Middle East peace envoy.

Film mystery

The exact origins of the film are shrouded in mystery, although a man called Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted fraudster living in California has been questioned over his involvement.

Start Quote

I'd say most pious Muslims do agree that the film was insulting. Many don't agree with violent protests. I hope our reporting reflects that”

End Quote

The eruption of anger has seen attacks on US consulates, embassies and business interests across the Middle East and north Africa. British, Swiss, German and Dutch properties have also been targeted.

The US ambassador to Libya was among four Americans killed on the day protests first broke out.

Libyan Interior Minister Fawzi Abdul Al has dismissed a claim on Sunday by the president of the national congress that 50 people were arrested in connection with the deaths.

He said only four people had been detained so far, although up to 50 could be under investigation.

Are you in Lebanon? What do you think of the speech? Have you been taking part in the demonstrations around the world? What is your reaction to the protests. Please share your comments and experiences.

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