Kano, Nigeria. Tens of thousands of people on Saturday protested on the streets of Nigeria’s second city of Kano against an anti-Islam film made in the United States that has stirred outrage across the Muslim world.
An AFP reporter said the crowd of demonstrators stretched several kilometers through the city, the largest in Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north, with protesters shouting “death to America, death to Israel and death to the enemies of Islam.”
The rally was organized by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, a pro-Iranian group that adheres to the Shiite branch of Islam, which has operated in Africa’s most populous country since the late 1970s.
“We are out today to express our rage and disapproval over this blasphemous film,” said Muhammed Turi, a protest leader and member of the Islamic Movement that organized a similar rally earlier this week in the city of Zaria.
“This protest is also aimed at calling on the US government to put a halt to further blasphemy against Islam,” he added.
Demonstrators carried pictures of US President Barack Obama, as well as American and Israeli flags as they marched toward a palace owned by the Emir of Kano, the top religious figure in the city of roughly 4.5 million people. Others were waving Iranian flags, the AFP reporter witnessed. Police and military personnel were deployed around the city.
“The prophet means everything to us. He means more than our lives… Any blasphemy against him is like an invitation to war,” said protester Husseini Ibrahim.
Turi also urged Nigeria’s government to publicly denounce the film and said all ties with Israel should be severed.
The low-budget film “Innocence of Muslims,” was reportedly produced by an Egyptian Coptic Christian, but rumors that circulated shortly after its release suggested an Israeli was involved.
The film incited a wave of bloody anti-American violence in cities across the Muslim world, with protests occurring in more than 20 countries.
Thousands of Muslims protested in Zaria on Thursday, burning US and Israeli flags.
The previous week in the religiously divided central Nigerian city of Jos, soldiers fired live rounds outside a mosque to disperse a crowd of several hundred that was seeking to demonstrate against the film.
Nigeria’s 160 million people are roughly divided between a predominantly Muslim north and a largely Christian south, and Muslim-Christian tensions have often led to deadly confrontation.
An article in one of Nigeria’s leading newspapers in 2002 considered blasphemous by Muslims helped spark deadly riots in the northern city of Kaduna in which 3,000 people were killed.