Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, has made a rare public appearance to address tens of thousands of supporters who took to the streets of southern Beirut to denounce a film mocking Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.
Monday’s address was only Nasrallah’s fifth public appearance in six years, and the first time he made a full speech in person to thousands of his supporters since 2008. “O Prophet, we die for you, my soul and my blood are for you,” the leader of the powerful Shia movement said, urging the crowd to repeat the words after him for the whole world to hear.
“America must understand … the US must understand that releasing the entire film will have dangerous, very dangerous, repercussions around the world. It’s a very big protest – one of the biggest if not the biggest I have seen here,” said Al Jazeera’s Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut. “Hassan Nasrallah himself showed up, joined the protests, took the podium and delivered a live speech.”
Our correspondent said the fact that he was physically there “was a sign how significant this issue is and was only the beginning of what they would do to protest”.
“He said anger should not be directed towards Christians, but that it’s a political issue with anger directed towards the the US and Israel. They didn’t target anyone [violently] or make any sign they would target US businesses or citizens.”
Diplomats at the US Embassy in Beirut have started to destroy classified material as a security precaution amid anti-American protests in Lebanon and elsewhere. A State Department status report obtained Monday by AP news agency said the Beirut embassy had “reviewed its emergency procedures and is beginning to destroy classified holdings”.
It also said that local Lebanese employees were sent home early due to protests by Hezbollah. In Washington, a State Department official said there was no imminent threat to the heavily fortified Beirut embassy, which is about an hour away from where the nearest demonstration was planned.
“All our people and governments must put pressure on the international community to issue international and national laws to criminalise insults of the three world religions,” Nasrallah said on Monday, referring to Christianity, Islam and Judaism. “The world does not understand the breadth of the humiliation. The world must understand the depth of our bond with our prophet.”
Nasrallah has been in hiding since 2006, when Lebanon and Israel fought a bloody 33-day war. In Lebanon, violent protests in the northern city of Tripoli on Friday led to the killing of one demonstrator and the wounding of 25 others.