Anti-Islam film sparks second day of protests in Chennai
Chennai is dealing with a second day of protests against the United States over a film that Muslims say insults the Prophet Mohammad, following an attack on the U.S. consulate on Friday that prompted 86 arrests.
Close to 2,000 people mobilised by the Islamist group Tamil Nadu Thowheed Jamath reportedly gathered outside the Thousand Lights Mosque. That is less than a kilometre from the U.S. consulate, where protestors smashed windows on Friday.
“Avoid Mount Road stretch and Radhakrishnan Salai near US consulate,” wrote Hindu Business Line journalist Dinakaran Rengachary on Twitter on Saturday. “Heavy traffic jam due to protest by Muslim organisations. #Chennai”
“Chennai police better prepared today! Stopped a crowd of 2000 a few metres away from the consulate! 2nd day of protest,” wrote Meenakshi Mahadevan, a CNN-IBN journalist in Chennai. “Close to 4k ppl near US consulate today! US flag burning, effigy burning, sloganeering et al happened! But in the end all under control.”
On Friday, about 1,500 protestors organised by Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK), another group, gathered in front of the U.S. consulate and threw stones and footwear at the building. The protestors also burned the American flag and pictures of President Barack Obama.
“The inquiry counter, police booth, CCTV cameras outside the campus and window panes, (and) glass paintings inside the campus were damaged in the attack, and about 25 people suffered minor injuries,” said a duty officer who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak for the Chennai police force.
“The protestors were charged following attempts to scale the consulate walls and break through barricades,” the officer said. About 700 people were detained temporarily to control the protests and later released.
The consulate staff vacated the building premises following alerts issued by intelligence agencies. Similar protests and the burning of American flags were reported in other districts including Ooty, Erode, Tiruchy in Tamil Nadu and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh. A state appointed Muslim cleric in Kashmir warned Americans to leave the area after 15,000 people protested.
The U.S. consulates in Chennai and Hyderabad meanwhile issued a security message early on Friday warning its citizens of possible anti-American demonstrations in the state. Embassy officials declined to speak on the record.
India’s protests have been tame compared to others, which began on Sept. 11, anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people. Protests in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Nigeria and elsewhere have flared, and several people have been killed, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.
“The director and all sympathisers of the movie need to be brought (prosecuted) under the international justice system and death penalty should be awarded for spoiling world peace,” said Mudasir, a TMMK activist from Azad Nagar. When asked, Mudasir said that he had not watched the movie or its scenes circulating on the internet. “I cannot bear to watch it,” he said.
The TMMK wants Muslims around the world to boycott American products, said its president J.S. Ribayee, in a statement. “This will severely affect that country’s economy which is already in bad shape.”
A California man convicted of bank fraud, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, has been taken in for police questioning regarding probation violations that he may have incurred from making the film.
(SLIDESHOW: Anti-Islam film protests in India)