Karzai Condemns Anti-Islam Movie, Afghan Protests Feared

Kabul, Afghanistan - Afghan President Hamid Karzai Wednesday issued an angry denunciation of a U.S.-produced film that insults the Prophet Muhammad, raising fears that Afghanistan may see a violent backlash similar to Tuesday's assaults on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Libya and Egypt.

Shortly after news emerged that the U.S. ambassador to Libya and other diplomatic staff were killed in the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, the Afghan presidential palace released a statement condemning the "inhuman and abusive act" by the makers of the film, saying that its release "has caused enmity and confrontation between the religions and cultures of the world."

Mr. Karzai's statement didn't condemn the killings in Libya, and didn't contain any language calling for restraint or for conducting protests in a peaceful manner.

Last year, his statement drawing attention to plans by a Florida pastor to burn the Quran preceded violent demonstrations, including the storming of the United Nations compound in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Seven international U.N. staffers and several Afghans were killed when the mob overran the compound.

Earlier this year, another strongly worded statement by Mr. Karzai condemning the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base preceded several days of deadly rioting across Afghanistan, including the attempted storming of the U.S. consulate in the western city of Herat. Western diplomats at the time harshly criticized Mr. Karzai for fanning the protests instead of trying to defuse the tensions.

The situation was quiet in Kabul midafternoon Wednesday. News of this kind usually takes time to filter into Afghanistan, and in the past many Afghans learned about such anti-Islamic actions from Mr. Karzai's statements, broadcast on Afghan radio and TV, or from the Friday sermons in mosques.

Earlier in the day, before news emerged of the death of the U.S. ambassador in Libya, Christopher Stevens, western diplomats and coalition military officials said they were monitoring the situation, but hadn't taken specific precautions against protests over the controversial film.

The amateur movie, directed and produced by Israeli-American real-estate developer Sam Bacile and virtually unheard of until Tuesday, depicts Islam as a hateful and hypocritical religion. Mr. Karzai's statement demanded that the video, clips of which are posted online, "must be stopped" because it would inflame Muslims.

"Such an obscene act of an extremist filmmaker should not be allowed to hurt the feelings of Islamic world," the statement read.