A Mixed Picture
As the call went out for Friday prayers, on Sept. 21st…
Across the Muslim world (and, increasingly, in parts of the West), protests continued.

This time, they focused not solely on “Innocence of Muslims” – the anti-Islamic video whose partial release on YouTube caused such a stir – but also on a French satire magazine, and its response to the furore.

The protests are now targeting not just American diplomatic missions and institutions, but those perceived to be of the West, in general.

Back in the USA…
One of the actresses involved in the making of the controversial film is taking legal action.

Cindy Lee Garcia has filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court against the film’s producer Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (aka Sam Bacile), alleging that she was duped into appearing.

She is suing because the producers have allegedly violated her likeness and participated in fraud and unfair business practices.

In addition, Garcia is going after YouTube and its owner Google, after the video-sharing website refused to take down the film.

Garcia says she advised YouTube that the video contained unauthorized use of her image, but that the video wasn’t taken down.

She is seeking a permanent injunction to remove the video from YouTube.

Garcia says she responded to a casting call posted in Backstage magazine for a film titled “Desert Warrior”, which was purportedly represented to her as an “historical Arabian Desert adventure film.”

She alleges that the producers concealed the purpose and content of the film, not mentioning “Mohammed” during filming, nor making references to religion nor any sexual content.

She says she only agreed to deliver an acting performance in accordance with representations made about the script, and the manner in which it was shot.

Garcia says that her resulting work was “changed grotesquely” from what she thought she had been doing, and modified to “make it appear that Ms. Garcia voluntarily performed in a hateful anti-Islamic production.”

Garcia tells the court that she has received death threats as a result of the work. She says her family – fearing for their own safety – has no longer permitted her to see her grandchildren.

She adds that she has been fired from her job by employers who also fear for their own safety.

Speaking of YouTube…
Pakistan and Bangladesh had at the start of the week blocked Google’s YouTube to prevent people from seeing the trailer for the film there.

Early on Wednesday, it emerged that Saudi Arabia was considering blocking the online video site as well. Bloomberg News cited the official Saudi Press Agency as saying the country will block the video unless YouTube removes it.

Later in the day, YouTube blocked the video in Saudi Arabia, saying it was willing to do so in countries where it is considered illegal by authorities. It has also done so in India, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is calling on the United Nations to draft legislation that would make religious hate speech (and the broadcast / filming thereof) an international offence.

Also in Pakistan….
The government of Pakistan declared Friday (Sept. 21st) a national holiday.

So, the whole country could celebrate its love for The Prophet – presumably, by protesting against the film outside Western diplomatic premises and other Western symbols throughout the nation.

Violent clashes occurred between protesters and security forces, even before the anticipated surge after Friday prayers.

At least 17 deaths and over 100 injuries have been confirmed, prompting the inevitable question:

If the government knew (or at least anticipated) that passions would run so high, and with such violent consequences, why give everyone the day off?

Asking for trouble? Literally?

Like Fuel, to the Fire…
The French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo drew anger from Muslims with the Wednesday publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, raising fears that a recent wave of riots could spread to France.

Charlie Hebdo has been the center of controversy in France before, with issues relating to Islam.

Last year, it published an issue that it marketed as being “guest-edited” by the Prophet Mohammed. Its offices in Paris were reportedly firebombed in retaliation.

Even before news of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, French Muslims were expected to protest this coming weekend.

Social media messages called for Saturday demonstrations in Paris, Marseille and other big cities – a week after Paris police arrested 150 people for protests near the US embassy.

French Embassies, schools, and cultural centers in 20 countries were closed, as a precaution against the presumed backlash to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

The magazine itself ordered an additional print run of several thousand copies, to be distributed on Friday – and to coincide with Muslim Friday prayers.

Helpful. Very.

Elsewhere in France, the Louvre Museum has opened a new exhibition (sponsored by a Saudi prince) celebrating the art and culture of Islam.

A mixed picture, indeed.

One which looks set to grow even more aspects, in the coming days.

Let’s watch and see how it develops.