UPDATE: Anti-Islam film sparks protest near US consulate
Muslims from across the GTA gathered to protest across the street from the US consulate on Saturday.
The protest was organized by the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, whose leaders invited people of all faiths to the event.
The group called for the demonstration in the wake of a low-budget internet movie called Innocence of Muslims, which portrays the prophet Muhammad as a fraud and a womanizer.
At least 49 people, including the US ambassador to Libya, have been killed in recent violence linked to the protests of the film.
Toronto demonstration organiser Syed Rizwi says there was more to the protest than just the movie.
"We feel that there has been a culture breeding through the media, as well as some elected officials, where it is okay to bash Muslims and make broad statements against all of the 1.4 billion Muslims in the world," he says.
Rizwi believes that the movie is a microcosm of a larger problem; what he sees as a systematic disrespect of Islam by governments and the mainstream media.
"We feel the United States government needs to do more to undo the damage they have caused by demonising Muslims," says Rizwi.
Mosques as far away as Ajax and London chartered buses to take their members to the demonstration, where roughly 2,000 people rallied.
The crowd included families, small children and people who would generally be somewhere else enjoying their weekend off.
One of those people was Hassan Nema, who drove downtown from Richmond Hill.
"That movie just added fuel to the fire by saying that 'man plus Islam equals terrorist' and that's just a bunch of nonsense," he says.
"We hope that we are recognised just like any other religion because Islam is a religion of submission to God, first and foremost, and it is also a religion of peace."
(with files from The Canadian Press)