Kandahar leaders condemn film, but call for calm
Stars and Stripes
KANDAHAR CITY, Afghanistan — Nearly 200 religious leaders, educators and members of the provincial council met Thursday with Kandahar Provincial Governor Tooryalai Wesa to denounce the movie “The Innocence of Muslims,” before calling for peace and restraint among the citizens of Kandahar in the wake of the violence in Libya and Egypt.
Wesa echoed Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s condemnation of the film while expressing sympathy to Muslims for their outrage and frustration over the film’s content.
“Even though this action was a great offense, we need to not be violent and to express our views peacefully,” Wesa said. “Your anger shouldn’t harm others.”
For its part, the coalition has not given specific guidance to troops on how to deal with questions about the controversy, International Security Assistance Force spokeswoman Maj. Lori Hodge said. She declined to discuss any additional security measures the military was taking.
“We are always vigilant, constantly assessing and adjusting our force protection measures as needed, but we won’t comment on specifics,” she said in an emailed response.
Molowee Azkhar, the province’s highest-ranking mullah and Islamic scholar, also spoke to the assembly.
“Do not go into the streets and protest because it exposes more innocent people to harm and risk … Killing one innocent person is equal to killing all human beings in Islam,” said Azkhar.
Following the meeting, the province’s media liaison, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jerome Pionk, spoke of the importance of the gathering.
“This meeting here in Kandahar City, the former heart of the Taliban, shows that the Afghan government is in the lead and able to speak with, and for, the majority of the population and bring peace.”
“Freedom of speech is not freedom from responsibility and just as one expects to be punished for yelling fire in a crowded theater, the filmmakers should know that their incendiary film is causing harm,” Pionk said.
While Kandahar City remained peaceful throughout the day on Thursday, authorities were preparing for possible protests in the coming days.
Nine people were killed and more than 70 injured in Kandahar in 2011 when Florida Pastor Terry Jones burned copies of the Quran, however Kandahar remained relatively calm earlier this year following outrage over the burning of copies of the Quran at Bagram Air Field.
Stars and Stripes’ Heath Druzin contributed to this report.