By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting from the Middle East, Asia and Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
BEIRUT/CAIRO/ISLAMABAD (BosNewsLife)– Christians across the Muslim world faced turmoil Friday, September 14, as deadly protests against an anti-Islam film spread across the Middle East, Africa, and south and east Asia.
In Lebanon, Pope Benedict XVI appealed to Christians, Jews and Muslims to “root out” religious fundamentalism.
The pontiff, who has expressed concerns about reported attacks against Christians in the region, spoke after one person was killed earlier in protests against the “Innocence of Muslims” film in north Lebanon.
There were reports that the demonstrator died Friday, September 14 after fighting broke out with security forces in the Lebanese city of Tripoli where an angry mob torched a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
In Tunisia at least three people died and 28 others were wounded after police fought hundreds of protesters who ransacked the U.S. embassy in the capital Tunis to protest the denigrating the Prophet Mohammad, state television said.
Violence also spread to Khartoum, Sudan, where witnesses said demonstrators stormed the German Embassy, setting part of the building aflame along with trash bins and a parked car.
An German flag was taken down and the Islamic flag raised as protesters danced and celebrated around the burning barrels.
Palls of black smoke billowed into the sky until police firing tear gas drove them out of the compound, reporters said.
Some then began to demonstrate outside the neighboring British Embassy, shouting slogans, while several thousand then were seen moving on the American Embassy, on the capital’s outskirts.
They tried to storm the mission, clashing with Sudanese police, who opened fire on some who tried to scale the compound’s wall, according to witnesses.
(Watch here the latest footage on the attacks against the German and British embassies. Story continues after this)
Demonstrations also continued near the U.S. embassy in Cairo, with protesters reportedly throwing rocks at riot police, who responded with tear gas.
The violence added to concern among Egyptian Christians, known as Copts, that they may become targets for Islamic violence, after previous deadly attacks against churches and other sites .
Copts trace their history to the Apostle Mark, the New Testament figure who they say introduced Christianity to Egypt in the year 43.
The Christian community makes up about 10 percent of the Egypt’s 82-million mainly Muslim population.
Minority Christians in Libya also face potential hardship, following the killings Tuesday, September 11, of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his staff identified as information-technology specialist Sean Smith, former Navy SEALS force member Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.
Libyan officials said Thursday, September 11, that they detained four people in connection with this week’s assault on the U.S. consulate in Benghaz in which the four officials died.
American intelligence agencies were reportedly examining the alleged involvement of militants supporting the terror group al-Qaida militants.
Protests were also reported in Malaysia and Indonesia, and security was tight in Kabul, Afghanistan, even though there were no demonstrations.
Additionally, there were also protests at several mosques in several cities in Pakistan, a majority Muslim nation, after Friday prayers BosNewsLife learned, with Christians expressing concern about the impact on the film on their lives.”This [film] could put Christians living in the Islamic world into a hell situation,” said Farrukh Saif, the executive director of the Pakistan-based advocacy and aid group World Vision in Progress.
He told BosNewsLife the protests against the film could further endanger nearly 240 Christian families who already fled Islamabad’s Meherabadi slum area where last month a 14-year-old Christian girl was detained on charges of “blasphemy against Idlam” before being released on bail last Saturday, September 3.
Saif said his organization currently provides help and accommodation to some 500 Christians driven from their homes following Ramshi Masih’s detention in Meherabadi, where angry Muslim mobs reportedly torched several Christian homes and attacked at least one church.
“The movie will further impact really bad these Christians who live in an area where Muslims are uneducated,” warned Saif in an interview with BosNewsLife.
“Their land lords have already said they will not allow them to return permanently. That’s why we have started a project of rescuing people and settling them in new houses.”
These latest tensions erupted internationally after excerpts of the “Innocence of Muslims” movie were posted on the video-sharing YouTube website in English and Arabic.
The film depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a caricature.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the amateur U.S.-made movie that mocks the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. She called it “disgusting” and “reprehensible.”
The film is reportedly financed by expatriate members of Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority group and promoted by Florida-based Christian Pastor Terry Jones, who burned a Koran, deemed a holy book by Muslims, in his church.
However in Egypt, the Maspero Youth Union (MYU) and the Coalition of Coptic Egypt condemned “all sorts of contempt or disdain against any religion, as well as to the sowing of sedition between people who embrace different religions.”
That view was shared by Saif, the advocacy official in Islamabad. “Yes we advocate freedom of speech…But there is a difference between freedom of speech and freedom of bigoted speech,” he said.”Any form of expression that peddles hatred against any community must not and cannot be termed as freedom of speech [or] expression,” Saif explained.
It comes amid a debate as to how far freedom of speech can go in a globalized world where news and views travels fast.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has condemned the video, but also stressed that protests must not turn into attacks as “Egypt will never accept the killing of innocents, or attacks on diplomatic missions or personnel.”
He added it is every “government’s duty”, including Egypt’s, to protect ambassadors, missions and tourists.
The appeal for restraint followed what was reportedly described as a frank telephone call overnight between Morsi and U.S. President Barack Obama. The Egyptian leader is reported to have brought up the video, while president Obama stressed Egypt’s obligation to protect the embassy.
Obama spoke Thursday, September 13, about the relationship between the U.S. and Egypt. “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” said the president. “They are a new government that’s trying to find its way. They were democratically elected. I think we have to see how they respond to this incident.”