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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Egypt’s Friday rally against anti-Islam film. Clashes continue at the US Embassy

Protesters in Cairo

The protests against anti-Islam short film “Innocence of Muslims” provoked the wave of anger and strong protests in Egypt and in other neighboring countries as well. The protests which started on 11 September continue till now.

Hundreds of people gathered today in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in other cities nationwide to express their protest against the controversial movie which insulted the religious feelings of Muslims and the followers of other faiths as well, as the film was portrayed Muslim people and Islamic Prophet Mohamed in a very abusive way.

Egyptian Islamist groups, such as Muslim Brotherhood and hard-line Salafi have been calling for the million-man march on Friday to voice their demands and express their protests against the film. Some other political movements were also stating they will participate in the rally.

Despite the calls from Muslim Brotherhood and other forces for peaceful protests and avoiding the violence some clashes between the protesters and police erupted on Friday near the building of US Embassy in Cairo.

The protests started following the traditional Islamic Friday midday prayer.

Mazhar Shaheen, prominent spiritual figure in Egypt known as “Tahrir Preacher” was speaking to the protesters gathered in the Tahrir and called on them to maintain the peaceful character of the demonstrations. He also urged them to steer clear from the US Embassy and to better organize the sit-in in Tahrir to deliver the demands of the protesters, and among them also the demand of the immediate official apology of US administration.

Mazhar Shaheen also stated that this film was produced to cause and promote the sectarian tensions and hatred between the representatives of Egypt’s Muslim and Christian communities, which is unaccepted in Egyptian society. But the preacher also stressed that if the protesters really love Prophet Mohamed for who they are demonstrating they should stay peaceful. There is enough martyrs and blood during the last months, and Egypt doesn’t need more, added Mazhar Shaheen.

In addition to that Mazhar Shaheen also called on the protesters to move to the US Embassy and to build the human chain around it to protect it and to prevent those who were throwing the rocks and stones and trying to attack the diplomatic mission’s building.

Egyptian Armed and Security Forces started to erect the concrete barricade surrounding the building of US Embassy early on Friday. The wall was built in attempt to protect the embassy. The additional CSF and Armed forces were also deployed in the area.

Protesters in Cairo and CSF truck
Thus most of the protesters participating in today’s Friday rally had the similar sentiments over the issue and the protests and were expressing the idea of the necessity of the peaceful actions. Most of them rejected the storming of the embassies and foreign diplomatic missions and condemned the violence, as it is even against the nature of Islam or any other religion. The demonstrators think that the people have the legal right to protest and to express their feeling and to voice their demands, but the protests have to maintain their peaceful character. Some of them stressed there must be the decisive steps of Egyptian authorities to calm the current situation and to work on building the real and wide channels of communication and cooperation between Egyptian Coptic Christians and Muslims.  It is important now to concentrate of the positive and uniting things rather than look for the differences between the people, so the Egyptians will be able to work on creating and developing the strong and democratic society and strong nation which will be respected all over the world. Most of the demonstrators strongly condemned the violence and attacks as it will lead only to isolation of Egypt and portray Egyptians as aggressive and intolerant nation.

A lot of protesters were waving the black flags with Islamic statement of faith “There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is his Messenger” and chanting for defending Mohamed. The protesters were mostly young, and some of them, who allegedly belonged to Salafi groups, demanded strict reaction over the film and even to expel the US Ambassador and to break the relations with USA. Some of Salafi leader even called to fully boycott US on all the levels: economic, political, diplomatic and even cultural.

Meanwhile Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi’s movement have been officially calling for the peaceful mass protests and rejected any violence. The demands of the protesters must be delivered only through the peaceful actions. There were the attempts to organize sit-in in Tahrir to delived the demands of the demonstrators.

Egyptian CSF during the clashes in Cairo
But the clashes continued and erupted again nearby US Embassy in Cairo during the Friday rally, with some protesters, mostly young, attacking the CSF and throwing stones, rocks and even Molotov cocktails on them. There were also claims that some Salafi groups were trying to ignite the violence and provoke the clashes.

Egypt’s CSF has been using tear gas to disperse the crown and to drive the protesters away from the territory close to the embassy building. The fierce clashes continued near the walls built by Army and CSF in the morning to surround the embassy and prevent the attackers to enter the territory.

There were ambulances present in the area treating the injured. Most of injures were reportedly cause by tear gas consequences and rocks.

Some foreign reporters were reportedly attacked by the masked men in the area close to Tahrir Square. There were the reports about the hostility towards the foreigners especially the media workers. Egyptian police has apparently arrested some attackers.

According to the Ministry of Health around 220 people were injured during the last 48 hours of demonstrations and clashes, with at least 12 people getting injured as a result of Friday rally.

The protests against the anti-Islam film demanding the prosecution of those who produced it and the immediate apology from the US side have been held on Friday also in other Egyptian cities. Thus, in the coastal city of Alexandria the protesters, mostly the representatives of different Salafi groups, gathered in front on US Consulate to protest against the film and to voice their demands. During the demonstration they set on fire Israeli and US flags.

The protests also erupted in Suez, Port Said, Kafr El-Sheikh, Gharbiya, Damanhour, Mahalla Al-Kubra, Mansoura, Assiut, Luxor, Beheira, Damietta, Qena, Sohag, South Sinai and Hurgada as well.