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Muslims hold small protest in Tel Aviv over film

September 13, 2012 |  9:27 am

Israel-protest
JERUSALEM -- A few dozen members of the Islamic Movement in Israel held a nonviolent protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday, holding banners saying “freedom of speech does not equal insulting the prophet Muhammad” and denouncing a film about Islam that has triggered protests in the Arab world as a “base and despicable act.” 

Wael Mahameed of Jaffa, among the organizers, told Israeli radio that “the West is trying to embarrass the Muslim world and incite against the Islamic nation, particularly where the prophet Muhammad is concerned.”

Other Islamic leaders in Israel appealed to ambassadors from the United States and European Union nations to pass legislation in their countries to prevent such insults, Israeli media reported.

The appearance on the Web of a trailer for "The Innocence of Muslims," a film made in Southern California, triggered demonstrations this week for its depiction of Muhammad as a buffoon who, among other things, condones pedophilia. A protest late Tuesday outside the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was followed by an attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

In Israel on Thursday, U.S. Ambassador Daniel B. Shapiro did not sound concerned for his safety, even as American missions continued to be targeted in neighboring countries. “I feel safe with our security and cooperation with Israel’s security services, yes,” he responded to a question while touring Israel’s south.

Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of Israel’s Knesset, or parliament, told local television the movie that sparked the riots was “intended to spread hatred and contempt toward Islam and Muhammad.” Tibi nonetheless denounced the violent reactions to the film and suggested writing articles or producing videos as better ways of expressing outrage.  

Ibrahim Sarsur, another Arab lawmaker and former Islamic movement leader, urged Muslims throughout the world to take the film as an opportunity “to launch a project to teach the world about the prophet Muhammad and explain Islam.”

Sarsur told Israeli radio this could be a golden opportunity for Muslim outreach and expressed disappointment that Jewish and other religious leaders remained largely silent on the controversy.

On another media channel, Rabbi Menahem Fruman, did respond: “The main problem afflicting world peace is that Muslims feel the West is discriminating against them, offending Muslims and not treating them with due respect."

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--Batsheva Sobelman

Photo: Israeli Muslims protest outside the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv on Thursday against a film produced in the United States deemed insulting to the prophet Muhammad. Credit: Oliver Weiken / European Pressphoto Agency.

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