Thousands of supporters of the Shiite Hizbullah movement protested on Saturday in the southern Lebanese town of Bint J'beil against the film mocking Islam that has been blamed for the violent anti-American riots that are sweeping the Muslim world. The amateurish film, produced by a Coptic Christian,t got almost no attention for the year that it was on youtube, but became a target of Islamic fury when it was recently translated into Arabic.
"This film that insults the Prophet is not merely a trivial creation carried out by a group, but American politics intended to be disseminated to the Western world," Hizbullah parliamentary representative Nawaf al-Moussawi told the crowd.
Women in black chadors carried colourful Islamist flags alongside young children holding the Koran as they demonstrated.
Moussawi ruled out a backlash against Christians in multi-religion Lebanon, saying: "We participated with our Christian brothers wholeheartedly in the mass given by Pope Benedict XVI."
Several participants held posters of Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah alongside pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose ruling clan hails from the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiism. Hizbullah has backed Assad in the civil war raging in Syria.
Some attacked Sunni cleric Sheikh Ahmed al-Assir, who has gained notoriety over the past year for his anti-Damascus stance.
"This Sheikh who instructs Muslims on the right path, what did he do for the south and for Lebanon? Did he say a word condemning the Israeli attacks?" asked demonstrator Mohammed Ali Bazzi.
"His every move was to disarm the resistance (Hizbullah), which is Israel's first demand," he told AFP.
On Friday, Sheikh Assir held his own smaller rally in Beirut, where participants waved Syrian revolution flags alongside Islamic flags and a large Turkish flag. Turkey once had friendly relations with Israel, but as it moves into the Islamist camp, it has become increasingly hostile.