RIYADH - The highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, has condemned attacks against foreign embassies in protest at a film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), saying the assaults run counter to the teachings of the Islamic faith.
"Such acts damage the Muslim religion, are not permitted by God and are incompatible with the teachings of the Prophet, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Sheikh said in a speech carried by the state news agency SPA.
"It is forbidden to punish the innocent for the wicked crimes of the guilty, or to attack those who have been granted protection of their lives and property, or to expose public buildings to fire or destruction.
Violent protests have engulfed the Muslim world over a US-made film defaming Prophet Muhammad.
In Egypt, at least two people were killed in days of clashes between security forces and angry protestors trying to storm the US embassy.
In Libya, the US ambassador an three other diplomats were killed when protestors attacked the US consulate in Benghazi over the movie.
A young Yemeni was also killed during protests against the offensive film in Sanaa.
Similar protests swept several Arab and Muslim countries over the film, believed to be produced by an American-Israeli real-estate developer.
Titled Innocence of Muslims, the film portrays the Prophet as a fool, philanderer and a religious fake.
The film was posted on YouTube in June but drew attention until last week when an Egyptian-American Copt produced a trailer in an Arabic-language blog post and e-mail newsletter publicizing the movie.
The movie was promoted by US pastor Terry Jones, who angered Muslims in 2010 with plans to burn the Noble Qur'an.
Jones called the film a "satirical" movie on the life of the Muslim Prophet, saying he showed a promotional video trailer after staging a symbolic "trial" of the Prophet.
The Saudi mufti called on Muslims to follow the Prophet's footstep while expressing their anger at the insulting film.
"If Muslims surrender to anger, they will achieve the objectives of those who are behind the production of this offensive movie," he said.
Muslims should not let their anger lead them to kill innocent people and attack public facilities.
He stressed that Muslim condemnations of the film should be within the boundaries decreed by Allah and his prophet.
The greatest victory to the Prophet (PBUH) is to follow his guidance, adhere to his Sunnah and spread his virtues, he said.
Describing the film as a criminal act, the top Saudi religious authorities also called for an international declaration to criminalize insults against prophets and religious sanctities.
He said those promoting the film wished to "turn Muslims away from their goals, which are building their countries, reinforcing their unity and the pursuit of development."
"The best response for Muslims to such attacks is to get on with developing and building their countries.Saudi Arabia on Thursday condemned the American film but also denounced the deadly attacks in reaction to it, offering its "condolences to the United States on the victims of the violence that targeted the US consulate in (the Libyan city of) Benghazi."