Several demonstrations to protest the controversial film “Innocence of Muslims” were being planned in Oslo this week, with one of them due to take place in front of the US Embassy on Friday. Oslo police said they intended to approve the application for the embassy demonstration, but would also be on hand themselves.
The film, made by a California-based man now under arrest, has offended Muslims around the world because of its portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed. Protests that began in Libya, with an attack on the US Consulate in Behghazi that killed the US ambassador to Libya, have spread quickly and turned violent in cities from the Middle East to Indonesia. Both the attacks and the film have been condemned by many governments, including Norway’s.
Torstein Stefansen of the Oslo Police told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday that an individual had taken the initiative for Friday’s planned demonstration at the US Embassy in Oslo. An open group has also promoted the event on Facebook, inviting participation. Arfan Bhatti, who has a long list of criminal convictions for violence and extortion but also has emerged as an Islamic activist, is reportedly involved but it remained unclear whether he is the individual initiating the embassy demonstration.
“We’re demanding that the organizers also have their own security guards, in proportion to the number of participants they expect,” Stefansen told NRK. “In addition we will have both uniformed and civilian police in place.”
Separate ‘peaceful’ protest
Norway’s Islamic Council is also planning what they claim will be a “peaceful” demonstration in Oslo, probably at the large square downtown at Youngstorget. Council leader Mehtab Afsar told NRK the group views the film as bullying and ridiculing their religion.
“Bullying is something that occurs at regular intervals, directed at individuals or groups,” Afsar said. “We feel it’s often directed at Muslims and it’s important for us to distance ourselves from the film, which was made to harass and defame Islam.”
He said he’d started viewing the film on YouTube “and couldn’t stand it for more than 10 minutes. It was insulting, and attacked my identity and the values I have. It’s not criticism of Islam, it’s pure and simple like spitting on Muslims and on Islam.” He called the film “destructive” and lacking any value.
Fahad Qureshi of the organization Islam Net said he has been contacted by many young Norwegian muslims who ask whether they should demonstrate. Islam Net already has distributed fliers along Karl Johans Gate as part of their reaction to the film but denounced the violence that has occurred in many other cities.
There were few details of exactly when the planned demonstrations would take place. The US Embassy usually sends out an advisory to US citizens in Oslo, warning them of pending conflicts around the embassy on Henrik Ibsens Gate on the fringe downtown, but no announcements had been made as of Monday afternoon.
Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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