BAGHDAD (CNN) — Hundreds took to streets in Iraq on Thursday, castigating an inflammatory anti-Islamic video and the nation where it was produced, the United States.
Angry protesters in the Sadr City district of northeast Baghdad carried banners, Iraqi flags and images of radical Shiite and anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as they railed against what they see as an insult to their faith.
“America is the enemy of the people,” the demonstrators shouted Thursday morning. They also yelled out, “Yes, yes to Islam. Yes, yes to Iraq. Yes, yes to Quran” — the latter referring to the Muslim holy book.
Some protesters burned an American flag, while another put a U.S. flag on the ground and stepped on it to express his anger. Sabbar al-Saeidi, a member of Baghdad’s provincial council, condemned the “Innocence of Muslims” film and called for the closing of U.S. embassies in all Arab and predominantly Muslim countries.
“Since (Americans) did not respect more than 1 billion Muslims all over the world, I call on all Muslim and Arab countries to launch an economic and diplomatic boycott of America and its agents,” said one protester, Abbass Qahtan.
A growing number of Muslims have demonstrated around the world in recent days over the obscure 14-minute film trailer that mocks Islam’s prophet.
The film — which was posted in July on YouTube, but got more notice recently after Egyptian television aired segments and anti-Islam activists promoted it online — includes cartoonish scenes of Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and ruthless killer. The filmmaker was identified in a July 2011 casting call as Sam Bassiel and on the call sheet as Sam Bassil; the name was reported at first by news outlets as Sam Bacile.
By Thursday, as new details emerged, it was becoming apparent that Bacile was probably not the producer’s real name. And two members of the film’s production staff who spoke to CNN denied initial media reports that the filmmaker was an Israeli Jew.
While the film was made in the United States, its origins are unclear. It was not sanctioned by the U.S. government. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called the film “disgusting and reprehensible,” saying its aim appears to be “to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.”
In addition to Sadr City, hundreds of Iraqis protested against the film and the United States in the provinces of Najaf and Karbala, according to witnesses and local police officials. These demonstrators were also supporters of al-Sadr.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has strongly condemned the “Innocence of Muslims” film, while also calling on Muslims not to resort to violence.
“The repetition of insulting (a religion) by some suspicious people and groups deserves the strongest condemnation and denunciation, especially the last film … abusing Muslims’ noble values,” al-Maliki said in a statement released Thursday,
He called on “the followers of all divine religions” to go after the “racists and stop them from spreading their dangerous thoughts.” But committing violence in the process, the prime minister said, would go against Muslim and “civilized values.”
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