Anti-American protests, ostensibly sparked by a derogatory film about the prophet Mohamed, have continued to take place across the Muslim world. Violent clashes with police and widespread destruction on property have been reported in three different countries on Monday – Indonesia, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Three to four thousand protesters gathered in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, today. Many foreign embassies were put into lock-down in response to the protests, which saw angry chants of ‘death to America’ and led to a number of cars being torched, including police cars. General Fahem Qayem, a police quick reaction force commander, told Reuters that the protests had been easily brought under control by security forces, saying “They burned some police cars, but we could split them up and prevent the insecurity widening.”
In Pakistan a second day of violent protests left at least one person dead in clashes between police and protesters after a press club office and a government building were burned down in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the Northwest of the country. It is thought that protesters targeted the press club in anger after their protest did not receive the media attention they felt that it deserved, before moving on to target the office of a local government official. Police and protesters then exchanged gunfire, killing one protester and leaving several other injured.
In Indonesia protests turned violent for the first time today, with Molotov cocktails thrown at the US embassy in the capital Jakarta. Eleven police officers are reported to have been injured by protester throwing stones and wielding sticks, before the crowd was dispersed by police deploying tear gas and water canons.
Protesters are continuing to demand that the US enforce Islamic Sharia blasphemy laws on the maker of the film. Some commentators have suggested that many of the protesters, who are accustomed to living under dictatorships, simply do not understand that the American government has no say over what films get produced in the country. But it is increasingly clear that protest leaders and organisers do understand this, and are explicitly calling for the US to enforce Islamic blasphemy laws. For example, Munarman, a spokesman for the Front of Islamic Defenders leading the protests in Jakarta, told reporters that the US government is responsible for the film regardless of laws protecting free speech, and went on to say that ‘‘we will continue to protest until the U.S. government takes proper legal action against them (the makers of the film).’’