Hezbollah chief, Hassan Nasrallah, called for protests on Monday against the U.S. produced film ‘Innocence of Muslims’ that has caused a ripple of protests across the Middle East.
“We call for protests tomorrow [Monday] in the southern suburbs (of Beirut) at 5 o’clock (1400 GMT),” Nasrallah said in a televised speech late on Sunday evening.
Lebanon has already witnessed violent protests over the YouTube video, in the mainly Sunni Muslim city of Tripoli. KFC, an American fast food joint, was set on fire. One person was killed and 14 other were wounded in clashes with security forces.
Nasrallah, who heads the largest armed force in Lebanon, has the potential to raise a huge level of support from Shiite Muslims in Lebanon.
Nasrallah called for protests in southern Beirut on Monday, in the southern city of Tyre on Wednesday, in the eastern city of Baalbek on Friday, in Bint Jbeil in south Lebanon on Saturday and in Hermel in the eastern Bekaa valley region on Sunday. All are majority Shiite areas.
The head of the powerful Shiite Muslim group spoke in a televised speech just hours after the departure of Pope Benedict XVI. The pope spent a three-day visit, supported by Nasrallah, throughout which he urged Arab leaders to work towards peace and reconciliation.
Nasrallah’s call for protests described the film as “the worst attack ever on Islam, worse than the Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, the burning of the Quran in Afghanistan and the cartoons in the European media.”
“Those who write or draw or make such a film would know that they would be punished wherever they are, and they would not feel protected,” said the Hezbollah leader.
In his speech, Nasrallah called for decisive action and suggested that the Arab League should hold an emergency meeting to discuss the anti-Islam film.
Shortly afterwards, Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour told Reuters he had called Arab League Secretary-General Nabil al-Araby to ask him to organize an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers to discuss the film.
Lebanon holds the rotating presidency of the Arab League’s Foreign Ministers’ Council.
The U.S. on Thursday imposed new sanctions on Nasrallah and two other key members of the armed group over their support for Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad.
The U.S. ambassador to Libya, John Christopher Stevens, was killed in Benghazi last Tuesday in an attack on the U.S. consulate that is suspected to have been linked to protests about the anti-Islam film.
After Stevens’ death, Hezbollah sent out a statement condemning the film as an “immoral act ... of the highest degree” on Wednesday, but did not call for protests.