Iran, Pakistani party reject anti-Islam film bounty

Published Monday, September 24, 2012

A Pakistani political party on Monday distanced itself from a reward offered by one of its ministers for the death of a film-maker who produced an anti-Islam film.

The Awami National Party (ANP), which is part of the ruling coalition, said it rejected the $100,000 bounty offered by Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour to anyone who killed the person behind the "Innocence of Muslims" film.

Bilour invited members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda to take part in the "noble deed", and said given the chance he would personally kill the maker of the movie, which has sparked furious protests across the Muslim world.

"The statement given by Mr Bilour has been rejected by the party because we believe in non-violence and our party is known for that," ANP spokesman Senator Zahid Khan told AFP.

"This kind of thing is beyond our imagination because it will end the difference between ANP and extremists."

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad weighed in on Sunday, sharply criticizing the film mocking Islam, but also calling for restraint.

"Fundamentally, first of all, any action that is provocative, offends the religious thoughts and feelings of any people, we condemn," told CNN.

"Offending the Holy Prophet is quite ugly," Ahmadinejad said. "This has very little or nothing to do with freedom and freedom of speech. This is the weakness of and the abuse of freedom, and in many places it is a crime.

"It shouldn't take place and I do hope the day will come in which politicians will not seek to offend those whom others hold holy."

However, when asked about comments by Bilour, the Iranian president urged restraint.

"Likewise, we condemn any type of extremism," he said. "We also believe that this must also be resolved in a humane atmosphere, in a participatory environment and we do not like anyone losing their lives or being killed for any reason, anywhere in the world."

The ANP is a secular party and holds power in Pakistan's deeply conservative northwestern province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where anti-Western feeling runs high and the party is under pressure from religious hardliners.

A general election is looming in the coming months, and analysts say Bilour's move may have been a misguided attempt to outflank the religious right on an issue that has triggered visceral public anger in Pakistan.

The federal government on Sunday rejected the reward, which Bilour announced a day after nationwide Friday protests against the film descended into violence and looting which left 21 dead and more than 200 injured.

The US State Department also criticized the bounty remarks on Sunday, with an official calling Bilour's comments "inflammatory and inappropriate".

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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