Iranians protest film mocking Muhammad; no violence reported

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TEHRAN -- Expressing anger at the film mocking Muhammad that has triggered protests across the Middle East, roughly 400 young men and women gathered Thursday near the Swiss embassy in Tehran, chanting, “Death to the United States and death to Israel and death to England!”

The protests had been called to take place at the Swiss embassy because it represents American diplomatic interests in Iran. Riot police and ordinary officers cordoned off the area north and south of the embassy, clogging city streets. Behind the security cordon, protesters equipped with a van and loudspeakers denounce the film. Women in long black chadors wore yellow headbands emblazoned with Shiite religious slogans.


“We university students believe Zionism is behind all these insults!” one protest leader in a brown shirt shouted from the back of the van.

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Another bearded student read out a declaration stating, “We students believe Israel is a menace to world peace, therefore we call for wiping Israel from the face of the world map. All U.S. embassies in Muslim countries should be suspended.”

The killing of four Americans in Libya after militants attacked and burned the consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday has raised fears about bloodshed elsewhere as protests spread, but there was no violence in Tehran despite the fiery rhetoric. Nobody tried to storm the embassy, protected by a heavy contingent of Iranian police and high walls armed with sharp points.

“We as Muslims are not happy if any single human being is killed,” said Yousef Hasani Nia, who identified himself as a political science student. However, the student added, “if we wanted the death sentence of (novelist) Salman Rushdie to be implemented, it is because we believe it could act as a preventative measure to discourage new insulters against Islam.” Protests over an online trailer for the movie deriding the Islamic prophet as violent and sexually deviant exploded Tuesday in Egypt and Libya and have spread across the region this week. The video, said to have been filmed in Southern California, was promoted online by an Egyptian-American Christian activist before clips were aired on a religious channel in Egypt.


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--Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles