Some 30,000 supporters of the Islamic Movement in Israel participated Friday in a rally titled, "The Al-Aqsa mosque is in danger," in the Arab-Israeli town of Umm el-Fahm. The rally took place as violent protests continued over the weekend in the Muslim world over an amateur film on the Internet that was deemed offensive to Islam.
The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Raed Salah, presided over the rally, which included Arab-Israeli members of the Knesset and other senior Muslim figures in Israel.
Speakers at the rally condemned the amateur film, "The Innocence of Muslims," which is considered to be offensive to Muslims and has sparked violent protests across the globe. It also led to lewd drawings of Islam's Prophet Muhammad in a French satirical magazine last week.
"We will sacrifice our lives and our blood for the honor of the Prophet, the messenger of Allah," the crowd at Friday's rally chanted.
MK Talab el-Sana (Ra'am-Ta'al), who addressed the rally, said, "While the Prophet Muhammad brought a message of reform to the world and humanity, the United States has brought only evil, such as the murder of the Indians, abduction of Africans to make them slaves and using atomic weapons against citizens of Japan. It isn't surprising that this insult to the prophet and Islam comes from the U.S. of all places."
Muhammad Zidan, a member of the Arab-Israeli Higher Monitoring Committee, emphasized in his speech the need for legislating punishment for those who insulted Muhammad: "These are despicable people who must be punished. Islam is spreading throughout the world, and in the end the victory will be ours."
Meanwhile, in Pakistan, where more than 20 people died Friday in clashes in cities around the country, a cabinet minister offered a $100,000 reward for the death of the filmmaker who created "The Innocence of Muslims."
Pakistani Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmad Balor told The Associated Press that he would pay the reward out of his own pocket. He urged the Taliban and al-Qaida to perform the "sacred duty" of helping locate and kill the filmmaker.
In addition to those killed, nearly 200 others were injured as mobs threw stones and set fire to cars and movie theaters, and battled with police who responded with tear gas and gunfire.
"The people were just waiting for a trigger," said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies.
In an attempt to tamp down the anger, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad purchased spots on Pakistani TV on Thursday that featured denunciations of the video by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. But their comments, which were subtitled in Urdu, the main Pakistani language, apparently did little to moderate the outrage that filled the country's streets.
Police fired tear gas and live ammunition to push back the tens of thousands of protesters they faced in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and the major cities of Lahore, Karachi and Peshawar. They were successful in preventing the protesters from reaching U.S. diplomatic offices in the cities, even though the demonstrators streamed over shipping containers set up on major roads to block their path.
The demonstrators, who were led by hard-line Islamist groups, hurled rocks at the police and set fire to their vehicles. They also ransacked and burned banks, shops, cinemas and Western fast-food restaurants such as KFC and Pizza Hut.
Clinton thanked the Pakistani government for protecting the U.S. missions in the country and lamented the deaths in the protests.
"The violence we have seen cannot be tolerated," she said, speaking alongside Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in Washington. "There is no justification for violence."
Khar thanked Obama and Clinton for speaking out against the video, saying this sent "a strong message and that message should go a long way to ending the violence on many streets on the world."
In Bangladesh, police fired tear gas and used batons on Saturday to disperse the stone-throwing protesters, who were from about a dozen Islamic groups.
The protesters burned several vehicles, including a police van, witnesses said.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the recent violent protests, but said Western nations needed to prevent insults to Islam.
"No one claims freedom of expression when they restrict racism. The same restrictions that are imposed on racism must be displayed against Islamophobia," Erdogan said Saturday. "Islamophobia is as dangerous as racism and is something that must not be tolerated."
Thousands of people also protested Saturday in Nigeria's largest city, Kano. The crowd marched from a mosque to the palace of the Emir of Kano, the region's top spiritual leader for Muslims.
In Libya, however, demonstrations took a different tone as residents of the country's second-largest city warned on Saturday of a "revolution" to get rid of armed militias and Islamic extremists.
In a sign of how weak the country's post-Moammar Gadhafi leadership remains, authorities tried to stem popular anger, pleading that some of the militias were needed to keep the country safe since the police and army were incapable of doing so.
A mass protest Friday against militias near the compounds of several armed groups in Benghazi lasted into early Saturday, as thousands stormed the headquarters of Ansar al-Shariah, an Islamic extremist group suspected in the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. Consulate.
Protesters drove out the Ansar gunmen and set fire to cars in the compound, once a major base for Gadhafi's feared security forces, and then moved onto the base of a second Islamist militia, the Rafallah Sahati Brigade. Brigade fighters opened fire to keep the protesters at bay.
The state news agency said four protesters were killed and 70 injured in the overnight violence.
There were no new protests on Saturday, but the city of one million in eastern Libya was brimming with anger, rumors and conspiracy theories.
The militias, which arose as people took up arms to fight Gadhafi during last year's eight-month civil war, bristle with heavy weapons, pay little attention to national authorities and are accused by some of acting like gangs, carrying out killings. Islamist militias often push their demands for enforcement of strict Shariah law.
Activists and protesters, however, say the militias must disband and their fighters individually be integrated into the army and security forces.
Protesters said in a statement they would return to the streets on Friday if they still see militias operating.
If the government does not act, "there will be a second revolution and the spark will be Benghazi," lawyer Ibrahim al-Aribi said. "We want stability and rule of law so we can start building the state, but the Tripoli government appears to have not yet quite understood people's demands."
Farag Akwash, a 22-year-old protester wounded in the arm during the night's clashes, insisted, "We don't want to see militias in the city anymore. We only want to see army and police."
Fathi Fadhali, a prominent Islamist thinker in Benghazi, said the description of some militias as "legitimate" just contradicts common sense.
"How can you be a militia and legitimate at the same time?" he said. "How do you leave a group of extremists taking charge of security?"
"The state must interfere as soon as possible — even, excuse me to say it, by using force — before everything collapses. I am extremely worried."
In Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq and Jordan protesters also took to the streets after Friday afternoon prayers to protest the film. In Iraq, some 5,000 protesters, mostly Shiites, burned images of the U.S. president, as well as American and Israeli flags, while hoisting pictures of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
At Friday's rally in the Hezbollah stronghold of Baalbek in the eastern Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, tens of thousands of people marched shouting, "Death to Israel" and "Death to America."
However, the urge to defend Islam was not enough to bring together the country's divided Sunnis and Shiites. The two sects, which have been locked for years in a sometimes violent political rivalry, held separate protests Friday.
The rallying cry for both demonstrations was the same, but the years-old divide has been exacerbated by the crisis in Syria, where the overwhelmingly Sunni opposition is struggling to oust a regime dominated by Alawites, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.