Hezbollah leader warns US over Prophet film

Tens of thousands of Hezbollah faithful rally in Beirut

Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, in a rare appearance before tens of thousands of faithful, said on Monday the United States would face grave repercussions across the world unless it suppressed a film that demeans the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).

Arguing that the world had not yet grasped the depth of hurt felt by Muslims, Nasrallah called on governments to block access to websites showing the film, which was made in California.

 "They slandered the purity of his birth, slandered his faith and his morals, slandered his Quran," Nasrallah told tens of thousands of cheering supporters, who had marched through southern Beirut's suburbs to protest against the film.

"The distribution of this entire film must be banned by the Americans," he said, to roars of applause.

The influential leader, surrounded by armed bodyguards, spoke to tens of thousands of Lebanese protestors waving Lebanese flags and yellow Hezbollah banners. "America, hear us - don't insult our prophet!" they shouted. "Enough humiliation!"

Nasrallah's emergence from hiding lent more drama to his warnings. Fearing assassination, the Hezbollah leader has seldom appeared in public since 2006.

"The world should know our anger would not be a passing outburst but it would be the start of a serious movement that would continue on the level of the Muslim nation to defend the Prophet of God," Nasrallah said.

He called for websites to stop publishing clips said to be a trailer for the amateurishly made movie called "Innocence of Muslims," although no full length film has materialised.

The greater goal, Nasrallah said, would be for the world to agree to criminalise insults to any religion and its prophets.

Nasrallah warned of the danger of unleashing further rage if the full-length film emerged.

"America, which uses the pretext of freedom of expression..., needs to understand that putting out the whole film will have very grave consequences around the world."

The Hezbollah-led protests came after a week of violent demonstrations across Arab capitals, in which several US embassies were attacked, but they stayed well away from the US mission in Beirut and the entire procession finished peacefully.

Some demonstrators said the US refusal to censor the Internet clips was provocative for Muslims, who feel they are often subject to prejudices and aggression by US forces.

"Is it really possible that America can fight wars all over the country and it can't remove one film? America wants to sew strife for sure," said Ahmed Afif, 30, as his small son sitting on his shoulders waved a Hezbollah flag.

US President Barack Obama's administration has condemned the film as "reprehensible" but said it cannot restrict the constitutional right to free speech in America.  
 

MORE PROTESTS CALLED

The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya, last Tuesday in an attack on the US consulate that coincided with an upsurge of anger about the film.

After Stevens' death, Hezbollah sent out a statement condemning the film as immoral, but it also denounced the violent attack in Benghazi.

On Friday, one person was killed when protests spread to Lebanon's northern city of Tripoli, where thousands of protesters torched a fast food restaurant.

Nasrallah, a powerful figure whose group enjoys the backing of Iran and embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has also called for protests in the southern coastal town of Tyre on Wednesday and the northern town of Hermel on Sunday.

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