Pakistan blocks mobile phone signals in 15 cities…
Security forces in Islamic countries are bracing for a day of anti-western fury, with international protests planned against a YouTube video ridiculing Muslims and French cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad.
France has closed embassies and schools in about 20 countries around the world after the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published a series of cartoons depicting the prophet, including two showing him naked.
Pakistan has drafted in troops to protect foreign embassies and blocked mobile phone signals in about 15 cities after thousands of violent protesters clashed with police on Thursday. The government has declared Friday “a day of love for the prophet”, a move welcomed by the Taliban and that risks substantially increasing the already high threat of violence on the traditional Islamic holy day.
The American embassy in Pakistan has been running television advertisements, one featuring the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, emphasising that the US government had nothing to do with the film.
The US and French embassies were closed on Friday in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, and diplomatic missions in the Afghan capital, Kabul, were on lockdown.
The cartoons in the French satirical weekly have provoked relatively little street anger, although about 100 Iranians demonstrated outside the French embassy in Tehran.
In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab spring revolts, the Islamist-led government banned anti-cartoon protests planned for Friday. Four people died and almost 30 were wounded last week when protesters incensed by the anti-Islam film stormed the US embassy.
Condemning the publication of the cartoons in France as an act verging on incitement, Egypt‘s grand mufti, Ali Gomaa, said on Thursday it showed how polarised the west and the Muslim world had become.
Muhammad and his companions had endured “the worst insults from the non-believers of his time”, he wrote on the Reuters blog Faith World.
“Not only was his message routinely rejected, but he was often chased out of town, cursed and physically assaulted on numerous occasions.
“But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the prophet is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims.”