POSTED: Monday, September 17, 2012 - 4:23pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 - 11:15am
(CNN) -- Protests sparked by an online film that mocks Islam's holy prophet entered a second week Monday, raising questions about whether the furor is isolated or a sign of broader anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.
On Monday, demonstrators took to the streets in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Lebanon. Answering a call from the leader of Hezbollah -- deemed a terrorist organization by the United States -- thousands packed the streets of Beirut's southern suburbs and chanted "Death to America!"
The largely peaceful crowd waved the yellow flag of Hezbollah and carried posters that read, "No to the insulting of the prophet."
"Prophet Mohammed is our commander," they chanted. "Down with Zionism."
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called for fresh protests Monday over the video, which he described as "a dangerous turn in the war against Islam and the great prophet."
In a rare public appearance, Nasrallah appeared before the protesters on Monday and called on all Muslims to push for the passage of laws in countries around the world to criminalize "insulting monotheistic faiths and their great prophets, from Abraham to Moses to Jesus and Mohammed."
"The world until now cannot comprehend ... the degree of insult this disgusting film caused to the Prophet Mohammed," he added.
Earlier in the day in Afghanistan, hundreds of demonstrators attacked police officers along a road leading to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. In neighboring Pakistan, at least one person was killed Monday when protesters clashed with police in an anti-American demonstration in the tribal region along the Afghan border.
And in Indonesia, protesters threw rocks and used slingshots to launch marbles at riot police outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Police responded with tear gas.
The United States has made it clear that it did not sanction the low-budget, amateurish 14-minute movie trailer posted on YouTube and produced privately in the United States. The clip, which has been banned by YouTube in several countries, mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.
The film clip was relatively obscure until last Tuesday, when protesters upset about it attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The same day, rioters breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, although there were no casualties.
Islam forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is taboo among many in the Muslim world.
Since last Tuesday, protests have spread to more than 20 nations, and the United States has increased security at its embassies and consulates worldwide.
Rice: Protests have 'nothing to do with' U.S.
The demonstrations are part of the turbulence that is inevitable in a region that has undergone tremendous change over the past year, according to the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.
"It's a change that the United States has backed because we understand that when democracy takes root, when human rights and people's freedom of expression can be manifested, it may lead to turbulence in the short term, but over the long term, that is in the interest of the United States," she told CNN on Sunday.
Rice appeared on numerous Sunday talk shows to put context around the demonstrations that dominated the news last week and raised concerns about the wider implications, particularly in countries like Egypt that have strong ties to the United States.
She said the mobs protesting outside U.S. embassies are a minority and "have largely lost in these emerging democratic processes."
"And just as the people of these countries are not going to allow their lives to be hijacked by a dictator, they're not going to allow an extremist mob to hijack their future and their freedom," she said.
Rice also insisted that the protests are nothing more than outrage over the online video.
"We are of the view that this is not an expression of hostility in the broadest sense toward the United States or U.S. policy," Rice told Fox News. "It's proximately a reaction to this video and it's a hateful video that had nothing to do with the United States and which we find disgusting and reprehensible.
But that is not the view of an independent American Islamic organization, whose executive director said the issue has gone beyond sensitivity over the video.
"The film was just an excuse to lead to these kind of riots in the street," Zainab Al-Suwaij of the American Islamic Congress told CNN from Washington.
She urged U.S. government officials to pressure officials in countries where demonstrations have taken place to control their people.
"The only language that they do understand over there is the pressure that comes from the government," she said.
Investigation into ambassador's killing
Libya has taken steps to find and arrest those responsible for last week's deadly consulate attack, bringing in dozens for questioning over the weekend, Libyan officials said. The exact number of arrests was unclear. One Libyan official said those arrested included suspects from Mali and Algeria, as well as some al Qaeda sympathizers.
There is still confusion about whether investigators believe the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi was planned or spontaneous.
Mohamed al-Magariaf, the head of Libya's General National Congress said there was "no doubt" the attack was premeditated, telling CBS on Sunday that it "was planned by foreigners, by people who entered the country a few months ago, and they were planning this criminal act since their arrival."
But an unnamed senior Libyan government official said there has been no evidence to indicate the attack was planned, or that al Qaeda was involved. And he disputed al-Magariaf's estimate that 50 people were arrested over the weekend, saying it was much lower.
U.S. diplomat Susan Rice also said there is no evidence "at present that leads us to conclude this (attack in Benghazi) was premeditated or preplanned."
If it was planned, that could indicate a more potent anti-U.S. hostility in Libya, despite Rice's assertion that the United States is "quite popular in Libya, as you might expect, having been a major partner in their revolution."
The FBI is also investigating the Libya attack but has yet to enter the country because of volatility there. In the meantime, FBI agents are interviewing witnesses outside Libya, federal law enforcement officials said.
While U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters over the weekend that the worst of the violence appeared to be over, the United States was tightening security measures anyway.
Nonessential personnel were ordered to leave the American diplomatic missions in Sudan, Tunisia and Libya. In Yemen, consular services have been suspended until the end of the month. And on Monday, the U.S. State Department -- citing "current safety and security concerns" -- urged U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon.
But the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the scene of five consecutive days of protests, returned to full staffing Sunday, the U.S. State Department said.
Filmmaker in hiding, video blocked
Federal officials say the man behind the privately produced film that sparked worldwide protests is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a convicted felon with a history of using aliases to hide his actions. Nakoula, who lives in Los Angeles County, California, is on probation for bank fraud.
Nakoula and his family have left their Cerritos, California, home for an unidentified location, the Los Angeles Sheriff's department said Monday.
Reports that Nakoula, who initially told The Wall Street Journal he was an Israeli, is a Coptic Christian have raised concern about a possible backlash against the minority religious group in Egypt, where tensions between Copts and Muslims have risen in recent years. Muslim and Coptic leaders held a joint news conference Monday in Los Angeles in which they condemned the violence.
Despite the firm condemnation by U.S. government officials, some in the Muslim world -- especially those raised in regimes in which the government must authorize any film production -- cannot accept that a movie like "Innocence of Muslims" can be produced without being sanctioned by Washington, said Council of Foreign Relations scholar Ed Husain.
"They're projecting ... their experience, their understanding (that) somehow the U.S. government is responsible for the actions of a right-wing fellow," said Husain, a senior fellow at the New York think thank.
A day after the protests broke out, YouTube announced it was restricting access to the video and since then, Google India has blocked access to the video. Afghanistan and Pakistan have also ordered an indefinite block of YouTube to prevent people there from watching the clip.
But if the ongoing protests are about more than just a low-budget film clip, these moves may do little to curb the violence.
"It's a bigger picture than the film only," warned Zainab Al-Suwaij of the American Islamic Congress. I think there are a lot of other political goals behind the riots going on (and) the film was just an excuse to lead these kind of riots in the streets.
"The political goals that these radical groups have ... are much bigger than just bad quality film that's been put on YouTube."
CNN's Miguel Marquez, Anna Coren, Nasir Habib, Reza Sayah, Jessica King, Chelsea J. Carter, Tom Watkins and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.