Hezbollah Leader Makes Rare Appearance For Anti-American Protest

Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah movement, made a rare appearance at a rally in the southern Shia suburbs of Beirut, calling for more demonstrations to express outrage over the anti-Islamic film Innocence of Muslims, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed as a fool and womanizer.

Unrest from the film has been seen from Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya to Indonesia and even Australia, reports The Guardian. Amid a crowd of protesters chanting “Death to Israel and “Death to America,” Nasrallah stated:

“Prophet of God, we offer ourselves, our blood and our kin for the sake of your dignity and honor. The US should understand that if it broadcasts the film in full it will face very dangerous repercussions around the world.”

Nasrallah rarely appears in public out of fear of assassination by Israel. Political opponents of the Hezbollah leader suggested that anger over the amateur anti-Islam film was a useful (and effective) diversion from the bloody crisis plaguing neighboring Syria, where the Assad government (along with Iran) is a patron of the militant Lebanese group.

The Islamist brigade Ansar al-Sharia, which is suspected of involvement in killing US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, has said that America is to blame for allowing the film’s release. Youssef el-Gehani, spokesman for Ansar al-Sharia, stated:

“We categorically deny we were there. American policies target some of the most sacred elements of our religion so you should expect a reaction. The embassy (US consulate) knew how sensitive it was to have that film, they should have evacuated the embassy.”

The Los Angeles Times notes that tens of thousands of pro-Hezbollah supporters attended the rally on Monday, which was boisterous but peaceful. The demonstration was far away from the heavily fortified US Embassy, a different take than elsewhere in the Muslim world, where demonstrations have specifically targeted US diplomatic missions.

Nasrallah also demanded on Monday that the United States, as well as the international community, should block the release of the full film. the Hezbollah leader also dismissed Western arguments that blocking the video would be a violation of freedom of speech as, “hypocrisy, deception and double standards.” He also called for “an international resolution criminalizing the defamation of heavenly religions.”