Protests against an amateur, anti-Muslim film continued across the world over the weekend, although turnouts were generally smaller and public anger seemed to be cooling.
In the two weeks since an Egyptian TV host first peddled the offensive "Innocence of Muslims" film, protests, sometimes violent, have spread to more than 20 countries. But this is far from a spontaneous outpouring of outrage. The action has largely been fuelled by local extremists and opportunists looking to capitalise on the public anger they stoke.
Indeed, there's been opportunism on both sides. Last week a cynical move by French magazine Charlie Hebdo tried to piggyback on the protests by publishing naked pictures that resemble the Prophet Muhammad. Several hundred Iranian students burnt French and US flags over the weekend in Tehran in response.
We need 'mutual dignity'
The current breakdown of the protests looks something like this: several peaceful protests in cities across Germany, a small Shia rally in Nigeria burnt US flags, riotous protests continued in Pakistan, and conservative Islamic groups enforced a general strike in Bangladesh.
From the outset, many of the street protests were purposely instigated by ultraconservative Muslim factions and local extremist groups looking to score political points. The general strike in Bangladesh is a good example – showing again how long marginalised extremist groups have tried to manipulate the crisis. In addition, the places where violence has been most pronounced (like Pakistan, where 15 were killed on Friday) have nearly all suffered from similar, deadly protests in the recent past – indicating that the film has less to do with popular anger than a litany of pre-existing social ills.
While most of the recent protests have voiced clear anti-western messages, it's important to note the important exceptions. Although several protests in Pakistan turned violent, in one interfaith demonstration, Christian and Muslim citizens protested together for mutual dignity. And in Benghazi, where the popular US ambassador was killed on 11 September, bands of local citizens stormed the bases of extremist militants (like Ansar al-Sharia, with possible links to the ambassador's death) demanding that they disarm.
Here is a slideshow of some photos from the weekend protests:
Sources: Reuters, Avaaz, Guardian, CNN, Washington Post, New York Times