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Protesters push a shipping container placed by authorities to block the road leading to the US embassy during the anti-Islam film protest rally in Islamabad, Sept 21, 2012. — Photo by Reuters

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI, Sept 21: Friday was a day to protest the provocative ‘Innocence of Islam’ film by demonstrating the love Muslims of all persuasions have for the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but it ended in violence, exposing disunity in a common cause.

After the mayhem had ended, people of the twin cities were left discussing why the self-destructive violence and who whipped it up to whose benefit?

“Well I don't know about the movie, but I have heard from my friends that the film contained sacrilegious contents about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). I will watch the movie later but first I will teach lesson to the infidels on our soil,” young Mohammad Zafran in the crowd gathered at Rawalpindi's Liaquat Bagh for a march of the US embassy in Islamabad, told Dawn.

Zafran turned out to be an activist of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) group who works in a brick kiln in Taxila. He was in the company of dozens of his friends, all set to combat police if they were stopped from reaching the embassy. Some protesters had plastic bags filled with stones in their hands.

When in their march on Islamabad, the protesters reached a commercial plaza built on the site of old Naz cinema, they started stoning it, notwithstanding a banner condemning the movie the owner had hung on the plaza.

A cleric kept on issuing battle cries from a loudspeaker-fitted van, and criticising law enforcement agencies when no policeman was in sight.

So the protesters vented their anger by smashing decorative plants flower pots on the Benazir Bhutto Road.

Better sense and unity became visible when people belonging to Shia, Sunni, Alhe Hadith, Deobandi, Barelvi sects and other schools of thought started joining the protest on the way.

They came separately but presented a united mass at Faizabad interchange. They could be identified by their specific slogans inscribed on bands of some youngsters tied on their foreheads.

“We came to stand up and be counted. All Muslims are united in their love and commitment to protect the dignity of our Prophet (peace be upon him),” said Ali Abbas who came from Dhoke Ratta.

Abbas said the rally aimed at informing the West that the conspiracies to divide th Muslims would not succeed.

Perhaps the biggest among the rallies that converged at Faizabad came from Jamia Masjid Amna on Kuri Road.

Mohammad Zubair, belonging to Deobandi school of thought, agreed with him saying that sectarian differences don't stand in the way of a common cause. Another protester, Naseem Ahmed, interjected calling for a boycott of US products. “Our government should ban US products if the Americans don't act seriously to stop such acts,” he said.

Afghan nationals living in Hazara Colony, Fauji Colony, Pirwadhai and along the IJ Principal Road also participated in the protest in large numbers. Most of the young among them were seen carrying sticks.

Mohammad Rahat, an observant resident living close to Faizabad, the gateway to Islamabad, noted that madrasa students among the protesters mostly carried banners. “But once clashes started with police stopping their onward march, they pulled out the sticks from the banners and used them to hit policemen, their vehicles and also public property,” he told Dawn.

In Islamabad itself, the scene had a different hue. A group of youngsters on the Park Road was seen trying to hitch a ride to Aabpara. Some of them were in jeans, others in shalwar kameez and they spoke in a mix of English and Urdu, as educated young people are wont to these days.

“We spent the whole night making this US flag,” said one of them.

Until he pointed to the Star-and-Stripes painted on the road for the traffic to run over it, the youngsters looked unlikely candidates for the crowds that were gathering at Aabpara and the square in front of the parliament, with plans to march on Serena Hotel, and ultimately the diplomatic enclave.

Though the protesters gathering there had different backgrounds and, as it came out later, different aims, they did not appear to have any religious or political handlers.

Traders of course were present in strong numbers. “We want to express our anger against the derogatory film,” Malik Sohail, an office bearer of Federation of Pakistan Chambers Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), told Dawn. Aabpara was chosen as the main convergence point by the leaders of trade bodies. However, Sohail could not say who the rioters were when the trouble began. He was quick to distance his community from the violence.

“Traders and ordinary citizens are not capable keeping up with the police for hours,” he noted.

Most probably workers of religio-political parties with experience of violent protests initiated the violence by throwing stones at police and pushing towards Serena.

“We have walked almost all the way from I-8/3 and the authorities should know that we can go to any extent to protect our faith and the honour of our Prophet,” said Hafiz Abdullah, who along with his friends had gathered at Serena after offering prayers in Lal Masjid.

These party workers did not dominate the crowd but stood out because of their typical appearances and the flags they carried.

They came from the madrasas run different groups in the twin cities.

Flags of the banned Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat, Jamiat Ulema Islam, and some Barelvi parties were visible.

Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf was the only political party whose workers came with their party flags and were present during the clashes with police at Serena.

Otherwise, there was negligible presence of any local or national level leaders of any religious or political party.

“It is the responsibility of the parties to control their workers and abide by the law of land,” said Amir Jamaat-i-Islami, Mian Aslam, who led the protest from China Chowk to D Chowk.

Activists of the MWM and Imamia Students Organisation were relatively docile on Friday, maybe because their central leadership was part of the big show outside the US Consulate in Lahore and had burnt the US flag.

Many people joined the crowds just because it was a holiday.

Comments (40) Closed

Pat Sep 22, 2012 03:22pm
The title of your article is very appropriate. Strength of character is in not responding to somebody being petty!
Secular Pakistan Sep 23, 2012 01:15pm
The Right Wing Neo-Cons, in the US and the world have figured out how to destroy Muslims and eventually Islam. Produce an offensive movie or a cartoon, once a month and then sit back and watch the Muslims go behave like apes in a zoo and destroy their own countries and soceities. No need to attack or drop bombs. This is a cheap way to annhilate an entire people at the hands of their own.
Syed Husain Sep 22, 2012 12:09pm
Right to protest in a civilized way - YES. Destroying private and public property during the protest -NO, NO,NO,NO,NO,NO, ....................
Muhammad Alvi Sep 22, 2012 04:39pm
Pakistan has become a laughing stock in the world. Their enemy is within - ignorance. They don't need an external enemy to destroy them.
Capt C M Khan Sep 23, 2012 08:48am
For the past thirty years Pakistan has been the breeding ground of unskilled/uneducated/jobless youth trained and educated in maderassas on the promise of Jannat. Now Pakistan cannot control them. Shame on all Politicans and Military dictators who have brought the country to this day. These youths detroying Pakistan assets will get food at night from the maderasas.
Aditya Sep 23, 2012 06:49pm
Because people in Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia are BUSY WORKING !! Its not Islam in my opinion-its poverty and unemployment which is doing it and well the politicians are fueling it.
kashif Sep 23, 2012 05:25am
I am sure all these protesting individual must have destroyed their own assets, house, cars, before doing the same for others and for the country
rahat Sep 23, 2012 05:33am
I am sorry, you misguided my word like most of your country people do. It is really just a movie which can not change anything of islam.
Pakistani Immigrant Sep 23, 2012 06:24pm
Seeing the protests, killings and destruction in Pakistan, I have no doubt, Islam is the religion of peace and Muslims are its peacekeepers.
Humans Sep 23, 2012 07:37am
It means you accept the fact there are two versions of Islam. One is tolerance (smaller) and another intolerance (bigger). World likes the smaller version and bigger version is what we saw in Pakistan. Smaller version brings happiness, peace, respect and prosperity. Bigger version brought death to 23 people. Why there are no protest in Saudi Arabia, home of Islam? Is Pakistan more sacred than Saudi?
Maryamz Hz Sep 22, 2012 06:57pm
I have noticed a very mature growth in Bangladeshi. Islam is tolerance. May the Bangladeshi people continue to grow and show the world a better place.
Maryamz Hz Sep 22, 2012 07:03pm
Yes Pakistan is causing its own problems when extremists are allowed there to hurt others. But there are very good Pakistani people also, we need them as leaders. But unfortunately those who lead well are killed by extremists. So we need to come out in large numbers against extremists and leave the rest of the world alone. A video , an opinion, a burning of Quran may be disrespectful, but if you look at an entire world, these are only a few out of trillions of people. We are not strong enough to ignore them so they dont get this attention? Even Americans despise such people, but they are not killing them, they ignore them because this is best way that they not receive attention. It was a cheap video, words changed by one man and government and Americans did not agree with it so yes we should feel shame. Those who use violence are not Muslims. Sep 22, 2012 07:12pm
Where are our leaders. Even if they are fully corrupted and greedy these are the occasion where they have some responsibility to lead and educate people. People of Pakistan please, please learn something from other nations. What is the benefit of destroying your own fellow Pakistanis properties. Instead of burning and torching everything, bring your leaders or government to their knees to force them to band all products of U.S. and don't keep at ties to them until this movie maker is handed over to Muslim nation. If you can't learn anything then at least learn from Jews. They are so strong that they even bring such a big country like U.S on their knees. Even a small comment against Jews forces highest officials to resign. .... learn something, Unit and make an remarkable impact to the world by force of money and unity on this.
Shabbir Hussain Sep 23, 2012 02:35pm
Protest is important against film and against such freedom of speech who not respect the belifes/relegion, we love our prophet (PBUH) too much.....But Alas! beside the only the govt. of pakistan announced the Friday as protest ..... This type of protest who destroy the property of a brothers is also need to condomn, What we want want to show the world??? These looks like theif? not protester? with beers.......Our many policeman man and common people have been either injured or............., SO be realistic PLease Don,t follow that matric failed molvis...........
Maryamz Hz Sep 22, 2012 06:51pm
Do u see them rioting when their bibles are burned? When their flags are burned? When you shout death to their people when majority of their people dont agree with what one MAN did? Allah preaches tolerance. Ignore people who do such things, we are not their judge. Ignoring them will not give them the attention as protesting does. You dont see the people hating Pakistani people, but now what impression will they have of Islam, that it is peaceful? that it teaches us to be tolerant? No you show the world Muslims are violent like the extremists that encourage these protests. If a cleric preaches hatred he is not the cleric of Gods words.
Hamid chaudhry Sep 22, 2012 11:14am
Shame on us... We Pakistanis are disgrace to humanity.
fzs114 Sep 22, 2012 09:57am
For first i have to admit, if we are not violent then what are we??
shamma parveen Sep 23, 2012 09:33am
though india and pak were had same system till 1947 its due to more mature path of democracy that we have grown prosperous and responsible nation unlike pak so it feel sad for pakistani citizens who have to suffer such mindless violence
Adam Sep 22, 2012 08:07am
Why is it that you people that claim to love Islam know only how to destroy but not to build? Did these so called Islamic parties and individuals ever do anything to please their Allah by building a School for the poor? or a hospital? or did they look and admire at Allahs creations through science? They only know how to destroy and kill. Yes I am sure by destroying another mans property and by causing harm hurt and chaos they will find the gates of heaven - Good Luck!
rahat Sep 22, 2012 09:45am
23 pakisani killed by pakistani just for a movie in America!! Oh pakistani people, when will you stop fighting among yourselves!!! Why do u not get lesson from 1971 ? I am happy that now I am Bangladeshi not Pakistani !!!!
Ahmed Saeed Sep 22, 2012 04:46pm
Yousuf Sep 22, 2012 10:14pm
Hamid..please mind your language. If you dont have any self respect for yourself or your country ..then dont pull us other Pakistanis together with you. All Pakistanis are not like this. There are many good Pakistanis in Pakistan..who are respectable inside the country and outside the country.
Phil McQueen Sep 22, 2012 11:20pm
Of all the muslim countries, why does Pakistan feel it has to defend Islam so strongly? No similar protests in Turkey, Egypt, Malaysia, Indonesia, .... Yes they had protest but no to the scale of Pakistan. New weapon of mass destruction - all west has to do is make a 3rd class movie about islam and Pakistan will just destroy itself. what a beautiful idea. You guys are disgrace to humanity!!
Farhan Sep 22, 2012 10:35pm
Very true. We are behaving completely the opposite to the teachings of the propht (PBUH), When the Kuffar hurt him, he prayed for them and asked Allah SWT to forgive them and show them the right path. What a shame we are so far away for the true teachings,
Syed Sep 22, 2012 05:27pm
This is really a shame that people are behaving in such manner for a film, Infact there are plenty of ways to lodge a protest. Think about what Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) would have done in this case. All his life he preached a peaceful way of life even if people threw stone at him.. Just think people!!
Hammad Sep 22, 2012 11:56am
I am not in favour of self destruction but am ashamed of the comments of rahat saying "just for a movie" and I am happy he is not Pakistani.
vvd Sep 22, 2012 11:43am
The last line should read as "You do not require enemies to defeat you ,as you can do it on your own."
vvd Sep 22, 2012 11:39am
The Pakistanis have reacted as expected.See how easy it is to make a fool of you so that you damage & burn your own assets.The whole world knows your soft underbelly & pokes you there & you start reacting.You do require enemies to defeat you as you will do it on your own.
B R Chawla Sep 22, 2012 02:38pm
Good show my Muslim brethren. Now it is your full time pastime defend your Religion you do not even understand. Let me tell you Salam means peace and Islam means surrender. How many times we slam without understanding it's genesis. How many time we proclaim ourselves as devout Muslims without understanding it's teachings. Now one of the ministers has offered reward to kill the maker of the film. It is official now Islam in danger and cannot withstand criticism. The government would do better to instill true virtues of Islam than promoting hatred. God bless. Chawla
Azmat Sep 23, 2012 03:11am
The smartest way to destroy a country where madness rules..... Keep teasing them with some cartoons & movies every now & then and let them burn their own properties & kill their own people. Leaders calling for such protests are a bigger threat to our society as they know very well what it will lead to .
anand Sep 23, 2012 07:34pm
I hope all religions and religious people find a way to live together. I fear for the times when there are only accusations and no understanding. I was in a store ( in USA) the other day and I heard someone speaking in Urdu , behind the shelf, I immediately went over to the other side and had very nice conversation with a Pakistani lady. I was happy to have spoken to her. I fear for the days when these simple joys are not possible because of mutual suspicion. In India , many of my Hindu friends are learning to speak the language of hatred by citing Islamic militancy, i am sure Muslim young men have some accusations against the Hindus. Sigh. Can't our Gods ( if at all they are different) defend themselves that men have to protect God's honor? Please please..Allah , Ram, Jesus..can take care of themselves...they can take care of all of us. Stop doing all this for their sake.
Al Sep 23, 2012 02:46am
Rahat has a valid point, why kill our own brother and destroy our own properties instead of hurting the culprit. On the other hand peaceful protests are ineffective. e.g if whole country goes on peaceful protest asking Zardari to go home, will he?
Mansoorson Sep 23, 2012 01:38am
Until the Islamic world took notice the total number of people who had seen this movie in a theater was less then 10.
vj Sep 23, 2012 11:32am
How pathetic a country and government can be? There is no other way to be clowns in front of world community. First declaring holiday and allowing people to protest without even thinking how the jobless and furstrated people will behave. Suadis played it cool in a matured way. Pakistan should have followed them. One video in west, more than 25 people got killed and millions of rupees loss for business people and government in pakistan. What a funny way to protest. Kill and get killed. Pakis killing pakis. Can't understand what type of protest is this?? To make the situation worse, one donkey leader is announcing reward to continue killing each other. Surely a patriotic law maker!!! Dont feel any sympethy now towards to the country and people. key to success for any nation is secularism, tolerance and coexist with others in the society. No doubt, surely Indian muslims are the best and hence less reaction from India apart from some isolated incidents like chennai one. Remember that India has more muslims than PAK. .
Concerned Citizen Sep 22, 2012 06:59am
The article talks about disunity so I was expecting that all sects started fighting each other later. But, this was not mentioned in the article. So, this means, that the heading is a lie. It seems the writer had decided how he was going to portray the rally and written the first para before getting the facts.
ilas Sep 22, 2012 08:17am
After yesterday, like many other times, Pakistanis have shamed themeselves in front of the world. No wonder Pakistanis are disliked by the whole world.
Asif Sep 22, 2012 04:27pm
Rahat,,, there is hope my brother....but wht u said is so true.
Seedoo Sep 23, 2012 02:57pm
This is what happens when you mix politics and religion. The religion is the first victim. I wish Pakistanis would become mature enough to understand this. Islam is a tool to manipulate the masses who are generally uneducated and either under or unemployed. People wake up! Time to seperate state and religion, get rid of this blasphemy law, develop a thicker skin, and give equal rights to all including minorities.
Mike Bradley Sep 23, 2012 04:08pm
If you hate the freedoms we cherish then why do you take our money and line up for visas outside our embassies?
Maryamz Hz Sep 22, 2012 06:44pm
I respect your words with all of my heart.To project violence over anything is not ALLAHs way but it is in fact do following the temptations from Satan. Allah tells us to "turn the other cheek",use tolerance and understanding and show them the truth. This only shows that man who did this that Islam is as violent as he said. And to protest against all the Americans or even the government when most of them dont agree with this film?When someone burns a bible(as some Muslims do),when a Muslim calls non Muslims infidels and hurts other faiths, you dont see them all killing and blaming all Muslims for what one of them does. Khameini burned bibles, why arent you attacking him? Some Muslims burn down chirches, why arent you attacking them? Muslims extremists attack other people and countries but some of you defend them and then complain when they defend themselves.EXTREMISTS are in your land causing other countries to defend themselves against them. Rid yourself of them and you wont have anyone there. Look at the reaction of your culture, all you are doing is showing to the world that Muslims spew hatred and destruction. They dont follow the teachings of Allah of peace and tolerance and dialogue. Muslims blame everyone but dont see they cause these problems themselves. Why dont you be brave Pakistan? Rise up against your extremist factions who use religion in wrong way, who listen to Shaaytan by killing and hating, not the loving words of a loving Allah. Allah loves all his children who are of all faiths and no faith, he created all of us. He would tell you to not worry about what is said about his book or Mohammed(PBUH), because we are not the judge of anyone! Only Allah is judge! He doesnt want your violence, he wants you to show strength by ignoring such words and behaving like respectful humans not wild animals. You are all giving a bad name to Islam and only proving that mans point. If you give attention to what he does, you let him bother you. IF YOU ARE a good Muslim, words and actions cannot touch you, because you are stronger for walking away and staying on the right path of peace and tolerance. HATE and destruction is cowardly.