KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Thousands of members of Pakistan’s radical Islamic groups rallied on Saturday in the southern city of Karachi against an anti-Islam film that has sparked violence across the Muslim world.
“Innocence of Muslims” has enraged many Muslims for deprecating the Prophet Muhammad. At least 51 people, including the US ambassador to Libya, have been killed in violence linked to the film, which also has renewed debate over freedom of expression in the US and in Europe.
Chanting “Down with America” and demanding expulsion of the US ambassador, the participants gathered in the heart of the city’s business district, where prominent radical leader Muneebur Rehman demanded stern punishment for the filmmaker. But he asked the protesters to remain peaceful.
Protests are dying down in many countries but continue in Pakistan, home to several powerful radical movements. Since 23 people died in Karachi last week during demonstrations against the film, however, marchers appear to have heeded calls by clerics and other public figures to avoid violence.
Rehman also urged the Pakistan government to seek UN help in making new international laws to “protect the honor” of Islam’s religious personalities.
Senior police officer Asif Ijaz Sheikh estimated that the crowd numbered more than 15,000. He said the protesters dispersed peacefully.
A similar rally was also expected in Islamabad and some other parts of the country later Saturday.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.