Hong Kong's Muslims in largely peaceful protest over film

Marchers scuffle with police as they attempt to breach barricade outside the US consulate

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 September, 2012, 11:01am

Thousands of Muslims marched through Central yesterday in response to an American film that has incensed their community globally.

The demonstration was largely peaceful, but there were scuffles between police and some protesters who wanted to break through a barricade set up to prevent demonstrators from reaching the US consulate's front gate.

Organisers said 5,000 gathered in Chater Garden before the march, and 3,000 went to the consulate. Police estimates were 3,300 and 800 respectively.

"We request our Muslim brothers and sisters living in Hong Kong to be patient and act peacefully," said Saeed Uddin, chairman of the Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, one of the organisers.

The protest was the first by Hong Kong Muslims against Innocence of Muslims, an American film seen as ridiculing the Prophet Mohammed. The film trailer, posted on YouTube, sparked violent protests in the Middle East and Pakistan, and demonstrations in various parts of the world.

Muslims of various extractions conducted midday prayers at Chater Garden at 1.30pm. Some of them then marched to the US consulate, and were stopped by police officers when they reached the back entrance.

Some protesters tore and burnt US flags printed on paper. The police had to lend loud speakers to march leaders to ask the participants to calm down.

During the scuffles, the chairman of the Pakistan Islamic Welfare Union, Khan Muhammad Malik, was led by police officers to the consulate's main entrance, where he handed a letter to a representative. The crowd soon dispersed. The letter called for the showing of the video on YouTube and other media to be stopped and said the "perpetrators should be brought to justice".

"We deplore the loss of innocent lives and are extremely saddened by killings in Libya and elsewhere," the letter went on, referring to fatalities as a result of rallies in Benghazi - where the US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed after an attack by local militias on the US embassy - and also in protests across the world during the past week.