Hundreds of Qatar residents marched toward the US Embassy in Doha after Friday prayer today, joining their voices to protests being held across the region against a YouTube video that disparages the Prophet Muhammad.
Police estimated at least 2,000 people turned out for the tightly-controlled rally, which was called for by prominent Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi.
"There is no god but God and Muhammad is his messenger, Muhammad is our prophet, Muhammad is our love," was the initial chant as protesters marched from the Omar ibn Al-Khatab mosque alongside the Doha Expressway.
But another chant taken up by some was more controversial: “Obama, Obama, we are all Osama,” in evident reference to Osama bin Laden.
When asked about the Osama chant, one rallier, Hisham Al-Jindi, said it was meant to send a message. “We are at peace in everything, except our prophet. We can fight only for our prophet,” he said.
Others explained that they were at the rally to show their disappointment in the film. “The prophet is a good person, even non-Muslims agree on this. So, why is this always happening?” asked Indian citizen Asif.
Ahmed, from Egypt, told Doha News: “This is my prophet, my Islam is not like the movie.”
Attendees, however, said they also condemned the deaths of Americans at the US embassy in Benghazi, Libya. “The person who did this should be punshed,” said Asif.
Al-Jindi, too, felt the United States wasn’t at fault for the film, but wanted to send a message that its creator needed to be held accountable. “[If] one American makes bad things, it doesn’t mean all American are bad,” he said.
This was the same sentiment expressed by Sheikh Qaradawi himself. During the Friday sermon, he told those gathered in the mosque:
"It’s unfair to put all the guilt on a full nation, they are few Americans and some Christian Egyptians who live in the US [that are responsible]…
Going to the embassies and breaking it or throwing rocks at it or burning it is not the right solution. We need to ask the USA to have an official stand against such acts of insulting religions, like other European countries.
He also said Qatar is producing its own film about the Prophet Muhammad and spoke at length about Syria, saying that Qatar, Arabs and Muslims all support the revolution there.
Qaradawi called on all Arab countries to help Syria, in many ways, including sending soldiers and weapons to the Free Syrian army. “It’s their duty,” he said.
The post-prayer rally opposite the US Embassy was separated by the multilane Doha Expressway, and didn’t end up last long. Held in temperatures over 40° C, those gathered gradually dissipated before a much smaller group marched back to the mosque to end the rally about an hour later.
Credit: Reporting by Omar Chatriwala and Mostafa Sheshtawy. Photos by Omar Chatriwala