Canadian embassies brace for possible Prophet Mohammad screening
Pakistani policemen arrest activists from Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, a student wing of the hardline Sunni party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), near the U.S. consulate during a protest against an anti-Islam movie in Karachi on September 17, 2012. Two protesters died in Pakistan as a violent backlash against the film. (AFP PHOTO/ RIZWAN TABASSUM)
Security at Canadian embassies in the Middle East will be escalated to fend off Islamic protesters if a controversial film about Prophet Mohammad is aired in Toronto, police say.
Police also expect demonstrators to stage vigils outside U.S. consulates and Canadian landmarks in Toronto and Ottawa if the movie is shown.
The film, which depicts Mohammad as a womanizer, has sparked protests in Pakistan, Lebanon, Iran, Indonesia, West Bank, Yemen and Egypt. Four people, including the U.S. ambassador, were killed in Libya.
“A lot of people have been calling about the screening,” Ron Banerjee, of the Canadian Hindu Advocacy, said on Monday. “There is a lot of interest in that movie and people want to see it.”
The group plans to stage a private screening to be attended by about 200 moviegoers who will have to undergo high security and metal detector checks.
So far they have been unsuccessful in booking a cinema or large club to screen the film due to venue safety concerns.
“Everybody is scared,” Banerjee said. “No club or venue wants to make a commitment.”
The group is also receiving pressure from conservative Hindus who do not want the film screened in Canada since it can cause backlash between their religion and Muslims.
Funding for projects at several Toronto-area Hindu temples have also been threatened with withdrawal by Ontario government officials if the movie is shown on their properties, community members said.
“Many Hindus have government and other jobs and they don’t want anything to do with that movie,” one community resident said. “They are very concerned.”
Banerjee said copies of the film have been withdrawn from circulation but are “available privately.” Parts of the film are still available on the Internet.
He said potential viewers will have to book in advance to see the film and be willing to undergo searches.
Snippets from other movies that are offensive to Christians and Hindus will also be shown, Banerjee said.
Officers from the Ottawa Police Service Intelligence Division have asked to be notified of the airing to plan for protesters.
“As you are aware this film has caused controversy and we would appreciate your assistance so that we may plan for any potential demonstrations here in Ottawa,” Det. George Bouris said.
National Security officers told the Toronto Sun that Canadian embassies in the Middle East will have to brace for a steady stream of protests if the film is aired here.
Toronto Police said they will not speculate on the airing of the movie.