NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Fallout from anonymously-produced video mocking Islam continues all over Middle East

Less than one hun­dred hours after the eleven year anniver­sary of Sep­tem­ber 11th, Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists have seized upon an anony­mous­ly-pro­duced video that mocks Islam to fan the flames of anti-Amer­i­can sen­ti­ment all across the Mid­dle East… in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon, and oth­er coun­tries.

The U.S. Depart­ment of State on Thurs­day issued trav­el warn­ings advis­ing Amer­i­cans against trav­el­ing to Alge­ria or Libya due to recent vio­lence there, includ­ing the attack on the Amer­i­can con­sulate in Beng­hazi.

U.S. embassies in Tunisia and Yemen have been attacked by angry mobs, although the fall­out was lim­it­ed to loot­ing and some destruc­tion of prop­er­ty because embassy per­son­nel had been evac­u­at­ed.

The Ger­man and British embassies in Sudan were also tar­get­ed by pro­test­ers there, although again, embassy per­son­nel weren’t hurt.

Under the Vien­na Con­ven­tion on Diplo­mat­ic Rela­tions, which most nations rec­og­nize, embassies are con­sid­ered invi­o­late, and the receiv­ing nation is under oblig­a­tion to pro­tect them from dam­age or impair­ment of dig­ni­ty.

The vio­lent and dis­re­spect­ful protests we have seen this week have unques­tion­ably been in defi­ance of long­stand­ing inter­na­tion­al law.

The White House said that Pres­i­dent Oba­ma had talked to the lead­ers of sev­er­al of the afore­men­tioned nations where Amer­i­can diplo­mat­ic facil­i­ties were com­ing under siege. The Pres­i­dent spoke on Wednes­day night with Mohamed Mag­a­ri­af of Libya and Mohamed Mor­si of Egypt about the video and the ensu­ing attacks on Amer­i­can diplo­mat­ic mis­sions. Yes­ter­day after­noon, the Pres­i­dent spoke to Abd Rab­buh Mansur Al-Hadi of Yemen.

Sev­er­al pro­test­ers were injured or killed when they clashed with police deployed to pro­tect the embassies, Al Jazeera report­ed.

A major rea­son why the U.S. and author­i­ties in the Mid­dle East are hav­ing dif­fi­cul­ty calm­ing down the pro­test­ers is that many cit­i­zens of coun­tries like Libya and Yemen just don’t under­stand or appre­ci­ate what free­dom of speech means.

The U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees to all Amer­i­cans the right to speak and pub­lish freely; speech can­not be cen­sored sim­ply because a per­son or group of peo­ple finds it offen­sive or hate­ful. Sim­i­lar­ly, the Con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees a free press, which means gov­ern­ment can’t decide what gets pub­lished or broad­cast (although exec­u­tives at large media con­glom­er­ates in the U.S. do effec­tive­ly serve as gate­keep­ers for their prop­er­ties).

These free­doms are not avail­able to peo­ple in the Mid­dle East. Con­se­quent­ly, the con­tin­ued avail­abil­i­ty of the trail­er for the bizarrely-named film Inno­cence of Mus­lims has out­raged adher­ents of the Islam­ic faith, because it offen­sive­ly and inap­pro­pri­ate­ly depicts the prophet Muham­mad (محمد بن عبد الله بن عبد المطلب in Ara­bic) who is con­sid­ered by Mus­lims to be the last of the prophets sent by God to the peo­ple of Earth. The trail­er was actu­al­ly first post­ed months ago, but it was not trans­lat­ed into Ara­bic at the time, which explains why it has only just sparked angry protests. Many pro­test­ers are blam­ing the U.S. gov­ern­ment for the video, not real­iz­ing the gov­ern­ment isn’t respon­si­ble for it, nor pos­sess­es the legal author­i­ty to pre­vent the video from being dis­sem­i­nat­ed.

The Fed­er­al Bureau of Inves­ti­ga­tion and U.S.-based media have, how­ev­er, been try­ing to ascer­tain the iden­ti­ties of the peo­ple who cre­at­ed the film.

A con­ser­v­a­tive Cop­tic Chris­t­ian liv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia who was pre­vi­ous­ly con­vict­ed of fraud has been iden­ti­fied as one of the key peo­ple involved with the pro­duc­tion and Inter­net dis­tri­b­u­tion of the film.

Though we don’t know the iden­ti­fies or true motives of these peo­ple, it seems prob­a­ble to con­clude — based on what we know so far — that they are a very small group of Chris­t­ian fun­da­men­tal­ists whose objec­tive was to pro­voke Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists in the hopes of get­ting atten­tion, or maybe just ignit­ing con­flict and chaos between Chris­tian­i­ty and Islam. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the Islam­ic fun­da­men­tal­ists took the bait, per­haps not real­iz­ing that they were being played.

Hot­head­ed extrem­ists caus­ing trou­ble is not a new phe­nom­e­non; it’s been hap­pen­ing for cen­turies. It pre­dates the found­ing of Chris­tian­i­ty and Islam. But our world is more inter­con­nect­ed than it used to be. An insult — or a deroga­to­ry video — can now trav­el around the world in sec­onds. Speech is not con­strained by dis­tance like it used to be. At the same time, cul­tur­al bar­ri­ers have remained. So it has become very easy for peo­ple to offend each oth­er — even if they live half a world away. That is a very seri­ous prob­lem, because some peo­ple resort to vio­lence when they get offend­ed, as we have been remind­ed this week.

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One Comment

  1. Score:
    Reli­gious Fun­da­men­tal­ists — 2
    Rea­son & Respect­ful Dia­logue — 0

    # by Lefty :: September 14th, 2012 at 1:52 PM