It was a “Day of Love” for the prophet in Pakistan on Friday and tens of thousands of people responded to the government-approved demonstrations against the film Innocence of Muslims by torching banks and movie houses, battling police, and ransacking shops. There were a reported 17 dead as a result of the riots.
Analysts accused the Pakistani government of pandering to these extremists by declaring Friday to be an official holiday — calling it a “Day of Love for the Prophet.” Officials urged peaceful protests, but critics said the move helped unleash the worst violence yet caused by the film, titled “Innocence of Muslims.”
In addition to those killed, nearly 200 others were injured as mobs threw stones and set fire to cars and movie theaters, and battled with police who responded with tear gas and gunfire.
“The people were just waiting for a trigger,” said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies.
In an attempt to tamp down the anger, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad purchased spots on Pakistani TV on Thursday that featured denunciations of the video by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. But their comments, which were subtitled in Urdu, the main Pakistani language, apparently did little to moderate the outrage that filled the country’s streets.
Police fired tear gas and live ammunition to push back the tens of thousands of protesters they faced in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and the major cities of Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar. They were successful in preventing the protesters from reaching U.S. diplomatic offices in the cities, even though the demonstrators streamed over shipping containers set up on major roads to block their path.
The demonstrators, who were led by hard-line Islamist groups, hurled rocks at the police and set fire to their vehicles. They also ransacked and burned banks, shops, cinemas and Western fast-food restaurants such as KFC and Pizza Hut.
AP is also reporting that a Pakistani cabinet minister is offering $100,000 out of his own pocket for the death of the filmmaker:
Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Balor told The Associated Press that he would pay the reward out of his own pocket. He urged the Taliban and al-Qaida to perform the “sacred duty” of helping locate and kill the filmmaker.
One protestor told Reuters:
Mohammed Tariq Khan, a protester in Islamabad, said: “Our demand is that whoever has blasphemed against our holy Prophet should be handed over to us so we can cut him up into tiny pieces in front of the entire nation.”
What are we missing here? Is something being lost in the translation? Perhaps we just don’t understand Pakistani culture and the way they show love is by cutting their fellow man into “tiny pieces.” Or maybe the Pakistani minister who has placed a personal bounty on the head of a very bad filmmaker is showing his love of the arts by eliminating an excruciatingly awful director.
Sorry, but this whole “Day of Love” business seems to have fizzled a bit. I’m just glad they didn’t call for a “Day of Rage.”