The wave of protests that have swept the globe in response to the extremely controverisal film, The Innocence of Muslims – which depicts the Muslim prophet Muhammed as a sex-crazed, homosexual paedophile – has finally reached Britain.
A few days ago, on the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, groups of Muslim extremists attacked the US Embassy in Cairo, Egypt and the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In Cairo, the mob was able to breach the walls of the Embassy, tear down the Stars & Stripes and replace it with the black flag of Islam. Fortunately, the staff had already evacuated.
In Benghazi however, the attack on the US Consulate was far more violent, with RPGs being fired into the building by an armed Islamist militia who then engaged the consulate security and Libyan army in a violent gun battle. When the smoke cleared it was announced that the US ambassador to Libya, Chris Stephens, and three other consulate staff had been killed in the assault.
Despite widespread condemnation, the protests continued, and on Friday – after Friday prayers – protesters against the film fought with police in Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt and Yemen, whereas smaller, less violent protests were also held in Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UK.
In London, followers of the controverisal Islamic preacher Anjem Choudary marched from Regent's Park mosque to the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. As the 200-strong crowd marched across Bond Street, chants of "Hands off muslims!", "Obama watch your back, the Muslims are coming back!" and "Sharia for UK!" confused shoppers and workers alike. The EDL – all four of them – were there to to oppose the group but were swiftly moved on by police.
Once at the square, the strong cadre of police corralled them into a pen facing the Embassy, which is when the speeches began. Abu Izadeen (the guy who once famously heckled former Home Secretary John Reid) had this to say: "The prophet Muhammed is an example to all mankind, how dare any Americans open their mouth to even mention his name. These are the people who occupy Muslim lands and murder the Muslims. You are the ones who supported Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gaddafi, the enemies of Islam. It is your own freedom of speech that allows you to insult the prophet, there is a red line and that line should never be crossed and that line is Muhammed."
The crowd were sufficiently riled up by this point and moved onto burning the American and Israeli flags. I've no idea why the Israeli flag was burnt, considering the film is widely rumoured to have been produced by an Egyptian Coptic Christian in league with this mysterious American guy, but cluelessness seems to be a running theme in these protests, given that the majority of protesters hadn't even seen the film.
Towards the end of the protest I finally managed to get a word with Anjem himself. I wondered why Anjem and his crew had come down to the Embassy considering the US government had nothing to do with the film. "Ultimately, films can be banned, the Afghan regime with unsophistication can ban it in their own country, how is it that the American regime, the biggest in the world, can allow it to go viral?"
Anjem then seemed to justify the deaths of those who speak against Muhammed, because to do so carries the death penalty in Sharia law. "They [the Americans] talk about their freedom if you talk about your own values – freedom of religion, freedom of expression... What about the values of the Muslims in Islam? Insulting the prophets carries the death penalty. You know that, with Theo Van Gogh and Salman Rushdie."
During his speech, Anjem had mentioned this protest was a peaceful one, but I wanted to know how he justified, if at all, the violent protests in other countries. "I don’t think we need to do justify them because the American and British regimes have caused the instability in Muslim countries.
"Ultimately this demonstration is about confronting America as the biggest enemy and to expose the hypocrisy – you don’t have to remain silent, you can rise up. They talk about an innocent man who died in the Embassy, but how many people do they kill every day with the drones? Tens, hundreds, and they don’t mention them at all."
Anjem, as usual, made a few fair points, but ultimately this protest and all the others around the globe play directly into the hands of the filmmakers. The film deliberately set out to insult and outrage the Muslim world by "showing the destructive ideology of Islam" – but where are the crowds of enraged Muslims out on the streets for all those lives lost in Syria?
Follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston
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