An American flag at the US Embassy in Cairo was torn down and replaced with an Islamic one by demonstrators who breached the compound’s wall today, September 11. Almost 3,000 protesters, mostly hardline Islamist Salafists and ultras — members of soccer clubs who played a large role in the uprisings that brought down Hosni Mubarak in February of 2011 — gathered outside the embassy, which is not far from Tahrir Square, to protest a US-made film that is said to insult the Prophet Muhammad.
The US flag, which had been flying at half-mast in commemoration of 9/11, was torn up and some of its pieces displayed for television cameras while others were burned, according to the Reuters.
Which film had angered the protesters was “not immediately clear,” said Reuters. According to the website Stand Up America, Terry Jones, the pastor who earlier this year burned copies of the Koran and angered Muslims, was to be at a Tuesday event called ”International Judge Muhammad Day” in Florida that “would symbolically put the prophet on trial and play it live over the Internet.”
US Embassy officials had no immediate comment about the incident on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, they had issued a statement that condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” The statement also said that the US “firmly reject[s] the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others” and emphasized that “respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy.”
About 10 percent of Egypt’s 83 million people are Christian. On an Egyptian state website, Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church condemned efforts by some Copts living outside Egypt “to finance the production of a film insulting Prophet Muhammad.”
A handful of protesters were still sitting on the wall of the embassy on Tuesday evening. Riot police surrounded the compound and “there was no sign of any confrontation,” said the BBC.
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AP Photo/Nasser Nasser; AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid