EU appeals for calm as Islamophobic video stirs Mideast tensions

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José Manuel Barroso, European Commission President, made an appeal against extremism yesterday (13 September), as demonstrators in Yemen and Egypt attacked US embassies, outraged by a blasphemous American film posted online. 

The provocative and amateurish production, "Innocence of Muslims," has triggered a wave of violence against US targets in Islamic countries that has put US missions on 'high alert' for protests.  A 'million-man march' is planned in Cairo later today (14 September).

Earlier this week, Washington sent warships towards Libya, where the US ambassador and three of his colleagues were killed in related violence earlier this week.

Demonstrators attacked US embassies in Yemen and Egypt on Thursday protesting against the video, which portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a womanizer, homosexual and child abuser. Muslims find it offensive to depict Mohammad in any manner, let alone insult him.

The 14-minute video was uploaded on 2 July by a YouTube user with the nickname of Sam Bacile. After sitting dormant and largely unwatched for two months, it was dubbed into Arabic and excerpts gained airplay on TV networks in Egypt, enraging ultra-conservative viewers. YouTube has now blocked the video.

Meeting with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in Brussels yesterday, Barroso said he condemned in “the strongest terms these manifestations of hate that sometimes we see against religions or against any other human beings”.  

Barroso said that the EU consistently condemned the use of religion to fuel extremism.

“I have the deepest respect for Islam and for all religious beliefs. It is not acceptable – the kind of attacks we have been seeing against Islam or any other religion. Freedom of expression should not be confounded with the propagation of hate, of intolerance or of prejudice,” Barroso said. He did not make a direct reference to the Islamophobic video.

The Commission President also expressed outrage at what he called “the atrocious attack” on the US Consulate in Benghazi.

Its most high-profile victim, the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, 52, had spent his life working in perilous places, mostly in the Arab world. He is the first American ambassador to be killed in an attack since Adolph Dubs, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, who died in a 1979 kidnapping attempt.

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