The U.S. State Department is airing a message on television channels in Pakistan with President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disavowing an anti-Islamic film that triggered riots.
The U.S. embassy in Islamabad produced the ad from public comments by Obama and Clinton, and the State Department spent about $70,000 to buy commercial time to show it, department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington yesterday.
The ad is an attempt to defuse anti-American sentiment that has spread through the Middle East and beyond over the video made in the U.S. that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad. Pakistan deployed its army yesterday to protect diplomatic missions in Islamabad amid some of the most sustained and violent protests yet against the film.
“We have to do everything we can to protect foreigners in the country,” Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said in an interview with the GEO television channel, criticizing violence he said was an attempt to sabotage the government’s call for peaceful rallies today. “Is this the way to show respect to our Prophet?” Kaira said.
Earlier, riot police had fired tear gas and warning shots as hundreds of stick-wielding students, some in college uniforms, converged on the so-called red zone that houses the U.S. embassy and the prime minister’s house, breaking through barbed-wired barricades flung across roads.
“We will not tolerate insult to our Prophet,” demonstrators shouted as they bid to outwit police and gain access to the heavily guarded enclave.
The 30-second U.S. announcement, subtitled in Urdu, shows Obama saying the U.S. rejects “all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.” Clinton is shown saying, “The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message.”
A second message featuring clips, drawn from Google Inc.’s YouTube, of ordinary Americans condemning the film is also being shown in countries around the world, according to Nuland. The anti-Islamic video drew international condemnation when it was posted on YouTube, a video-sharing service.
Rallies were held yesterday in a number of cities as Pakistanis expressed their anger over the movie that portrays the Prophet as a womanizer, sparking deadly protests and attacks on U.S. and European-linked targets in the Middle East.
The government of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf announced a public holiday for today to celebrate the life of the Prophet and allow people to protest the film. The move coincides with a call by religious political parties for nationwide demonstrations today.
Pakistan and Bangladesh this week blocked YouTube to prevent people watching what was billed as an excerpt from a coming full-length movie.
The 14-minute trailer also shows a fictional attack by Muslims on a Christian family, followed by a derisive account of the origins of Islam.
Anti-American sentiment has been running high in Pakistan after years of U.S. drone missile attacks, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town last year and other confrontations. A U.S. diplomatic vehicle was attacked this month in the volatile northwestern city of Peshawar, killing two people and injuring two consulate officials.