Timeline: Protests over anti-Islam video

Breakdown of events since diffusion of video considered offensive to Islam that led to violent protests at US embassies.

Protest against an anti-Islam film made in the US
Salafist protesters raise an al-Qaeda flag outside the US embassy compound in Manama, Bahrain [EPA]

Thousands of people have protested across the Muslim world against the film Innocence of Muslims, a movie made in the US that depicts the Prophet Muhammad in what Muslims say is a derogatory manner.

The film was produced in southern California by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a Coptic Christian filmmaker who was born in Egypt and influenced by radical anti-Islamic cleric Zakaria Botros Henein.

Nakoula was released from a US prison in June 2011 on probation from a bank fraud conviction. Production of the film started in August 2011 and then screened at a Hollywood theatre months later, when close to no one watched.

On July 1, 2012, a 14-minute-trailer of the film was uploaded to YouTube by “sambacile”, thought to be one of Nakoula’s aliases. Weeks later, right-wing Washington DC-based Coptic activist Morris Sadek sent the link to Gamel Girgis, an Egyptian reporter who writes about emigrant Copts for al-Youm al-Sabaa, a newspaper in Cairo.

Interest in the film then spread throughout the Egyptian media, with al-Nas channel presenter Khaled Abdullah, an ultraconservative Salafi, showing the clip dubbed into Arabic on September 8. Days later, violent protests broke out in two Muslim nations, as a firestorm was unleashed against US diplomatic posts.

Here are some of the most significant developments since the demonstrations began on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks:      

Tuesday, September 11

At the US consulate in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three embassy officials are killed, including two former marines.

A US official says extremists used hostility to the film as a pretext to launch an attack on US interests on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In Egypt, about 3,000 mainly Salafist demonstrators demonstrate at the Cairo US embassy and tear down the US flag.

Wednesday, September 12

Libya apologises to the US and blames followers of the deposed regime of late Libyan leader Muamaar Gaddafi and al-Qaeda.

US President Barack Obama condemns the “outrageous” attack but vows he will not break America’s bond with Libya.

He vows justice and orders increased security at US posts worldwide, as US warships head towards Libya.

Thursday, September 13

In Yemen, where the US embassy is attacked, clashes between police and demonstrators leave four people dead.

More than 200 are injured when protesters stone the US mission in Cairo.

Demonstrations also take place in Iraq, Iran and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Friday, September 14

In Sudan, security forces use tear gas against about 10,000 demonstrators near the US embassy. Two protesters are killed. Demonstrators set fire to the German mission and also attack the UK embassy.

In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, one person is killed in clashes between security forces and Islamists.

In Tunis, four people are killed in clashes between Salafists and police at the US embassy and nearby American school.

In Cairo, a protester is killed in clashes with police outside the US embassy building.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the killed US diplomats are flown home to the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.

Saturday, September 15

Taliban fighters storm Camp Bastion, a heavily fortified airfield in Afghanistan’s Helmand province where Britain’s Prince Harry is deployed, killing two US Marines.

Al-Qaeda’s Yemeni branch says the deadly attack on US diplomats in Libya was in “revenge” for the killing of its number two, Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi, in a drone strike in June. The Libyan government says the attack on the US consulate was pre-planned.

The US orders non-essential diplomatic staff to leave Sudan and Tunisia.

Police in California question the man suspected of producing the anti-Islam film.

Sunday, September 16

About 1,500 students pour onto the streets of Kabul to protest against the film.

Hezbollah calls for a week of protests against the film across predominantly Shia areas of Lebanon.

Libya announces the cumulative arrest of 50 suspects over the Benghazi killing.

Monday, September 17

Two protesters against the film die in Pakistan, while demonstrations also take place in Afghanistan and Azerbaijan.

The governments of Pakistan and Bangladesh block YouTube entirely, after Google blocks access to the film in Egypt, Libya, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries.

Tens of thousands take to the streets of southern Beirut, in the rare presence of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who delivers an anti-US address from the podium.

Hundreds of Palestinians stage a peaceful protest in Ramallah. 

Hundreds of Yemeni students demonstrate, calling for the expulsion of the US ambassador and the boycott of American products.

Protesters clash with Indonesian police outside the US embassy in Jakarta. 

Washington says it will close its embassy in Bangkok in response to a planned protest by several hundred people.

Tuesday, September 18

Saudi Arabia threatens to block Youtube if Google does not respond to request to deny access to the anti-Islam film.

Germany’s foreign minister condemns plans by a far-right group to show the film mocking the Prophet Muhammad.

The leader of Media for Christ, a Christian broadcasting charity, says he too was duped by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. Its president Joseph Nassrallah said the film’s reputed producer deceived him when he called him last year to say he was “making a film about Christian persecution”.

Wednesday, September 19

French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo publishes cartoons of a naked Prophet Muhammad. The magazine’s website is reportedly put out of action by a cyber-attack that police are investigating.

As a result, France steps up security and decides embassies, consulates, cultural centres and international French schools in around 20 Muslim countries will be closed on Friday, in anticipation of wide-spread protests.

In the southern Lebanese city of Tyre, thousands attend a Hezbollah-led protest to denounce the anti-Islam video and the cartoons published in the French magazine.

Demonstrators in Pakistan angry over the anti-Islam video accused a local businessman of blasphemy, forcing the police to open a case and driving his family into hiding, following an argument that broke out when he refused to join their protest.

Thursday, September 20

Pakistani police and military clash with angry students in the capital Islamabad protesting against the anti-Islam video and at least 50 people are injured.

Smaller demonstrations are held in Kabul and the Nigerian city of Zaria, as the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation calls for international action against hate-speech.

Iranian students chant “Death to France” after satirical weekly newspaper publishes cartoons caricaturing Prophet Muhammad.

Muslims angered by cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad should follow his example of enduring insults without retaliating, Egypt’s highest Islamic legal official says.

Western embassies tighten security in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, fearing the cartoons could lead to more unrest.

Friday, September 21

Western diplomatic missions and other institutions shut down across the Islamic world, where anti-Western protests are staged on the Muslim day of prayer.

The most violent incidents are reported from Pakistan, where at least 17 people die and almost 200 are hurt in protests in the cities of Peshawar and Karachi.

In the capital Islamabad, shots are fired as protesters gather outside the city’s diplomatic enclave.

Smaller protests are held across the world in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Lebanon and Germany.

France, along with several other nations – including Tunisia – banned any public rallies against the cartoons.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies