WASHINGTON, DC – The United States braced Saturday for more protests over an independently produced anti-Islam film that has ignited anger in the Muslim world, temporarily closing some of its diplomatic missions and warning American citizens in some countries to be vigilant.
The U.S. mission in Lahore, Pakistan, on Saturday extended the temporary suspension of services amid news of two planned protests that were expected to draw hundreds, according to a U.S. State Department security announcement.
Protests were also planned at U.S. Embassies in Albania, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Lebanon.
It follows violent protests Friday in Pakistan, where at least 27 people were killed and more than 100 injured as mobs ransacked banks, theaters, government offices and a church and clashed with security forces.
The decision this week by a French satire magazine to publish cartoons of a figure resembling Mohammed stoked fury over the film even further. It prompted France to close diplomatic facilities temporarily in 20 countries and even ban weekend protests in Paris amid concerns over possible fallout.
The U.S. Embassy in Jordan, which has been the target of recent protests, warned American citizens to avoid France’s Embassy as well as French schools and cultural centers in the country.
Muslims in more than 20 nations have taken part in protests targeting the United States since September 11 over “Innocence of Muslims,” an obscure, 14-minute trailer for a film that mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.
While most protests have been peaceful, there have been a number of demonstrations notable for their violence that has left more than two dozen people dead — among them U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other Americans killed in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Protests spread to Nigeria, Bangladesh
Thousands of Shiite Muslims demonstrated in the Nigerian city of Kano on Saturday to denounce the anti-Islam film, a resident said. There were no immediate reports of violence, a police officer said.
“The imam called us to join in the call to damn the evil film from America which insulted the prophet and we joined in the march,” resident Sani isa Mohammed told CNN. “We chanted and shouted. My voice is hoarse from screaming!”
The crowd shouted “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) and “Death to America” and carried placards and pictures of U.S. President Barack Obama, he said.
Peaceful protests in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka turned violent Saturday, with police firing tear gas to disperse the crowds, a police spokesman said.
Protesters torched a police van and damaged police cars, and several protesters and protest leaders were arrested, the spokesman said.
Bangladesh has one of the world’s largest Muslim populations.
Female mosque students demonstrate in Pakistan
At least 3,500 female students of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, protested the film Saturday afternoon, mosque spokesman Abdul Qadir told CNN.
The women and girls wore headbands on top of their burqas as they marched through Islamabad’s streets, carrying placards saying “America is the biggest terrorist” and “Say NO to American products,” Qadir said.
“We will respond to this insult whether we are men or women,” they chanted.
Their demonstration came a day after violent protests across Pakistan that saw tens of thousands take to the streets.
Pakistani authorities effectively gave their blessing to the protests when Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf declared a “national holiday in protest of the film” Friday.
Washington counters protests with TV, social media campaign
The United States has been trying to stem anger in Pakistan through television advertisements and a Facebook campaign.
The U.S. State Department spent $70,000 on television public service announcements that began airing last week in Pakistan. The ads feature Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disavowing the anti-Islam video.
On the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, officials posted a video of two Americans speaking out against the film, but that has drawn overwhelmingly negative responses.
“If America (does) not have any concern with this film then why (is) their government not taking any action against this act? Why there is no law (to) protect the religious (beliefs) of Muslims?” read a Facebook post by someone identified as Numra Sheikh.
American diplomatic official summoned in Pakistan
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, meanwhile, summoned U.S. charges d’affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland on Friday to demand the United States remove the controversial movie from YouTube. Islamabad has blocked the site in recent days.
According to a statement, the ministry lodged a protest with Hoagland over the movie, describing it as “a premeditated and a malicious act to spread hatred and violence among people of different faiths.”
Hoagland reiterated the Obama administration’s repeated condemnation of the movie and its message, emphasizing that the United States government had nothing to do with it.
“Ambassador Hoagland stated that this act was a deeply insensitive decision by a single individual to disseminate hatred,” according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy. “It does not reflect the values of the United States, a nation of more than 300 million people, built upon the pillars of religious freedom and tolerance.”