Saturday, September 15, 2012

Current Events

First, a summary of what has happened around here: There have been demonstrations outside the Consulate in Casablanca. In Rabat apparently there have been small peaceful sit-ins outside Parliament (as per usual). I don’t know exactly what has happened in Rabat  but I think nothing major so far. In SalĂ©, across the river, around 300 people gathered in a poor neighborhood before Friday prayers and burned two American flags. We have been advised to stay close to home and Agdal should be safe.

Now, here is what I think of the recent events throughout the Muslim world and elsewhere. Feel free to tell me if you disagree.

1. The incident in Benghazi was not a result of the film. It is becoming clear that the attack was planned for 9/11 and anger about the film was used only as a convenient pretext. It seems likely that al-Qaeda was behind the attack, but of course it's not certain. The killing of an ambassador is a tragic event and its perpetrators should be brought to justice, but this should be treated separately from the film protests.

2. The film (“Innocence of Muslims”) itself it hateful and aimed to offend but I think we’re all taking it a bit too seriously. I haven’t seen it but I’m sure it’s nothing of any value. Of course there are those who absolutely irrationally hate Islam, and they are often the loudest. Two years ago Terry Jones became the center of a nationwide and international controversy simply by persistently advocating something extreme and ridiculous. Of course he was never able to follow through with it, but he made headlines all over the country--and I think that’s exactly what he wanted. I think in his case the media are to blame for making him such a big deal. The message of Terry Jones and other radical Islamophobes is so desperate and irrational that they must resort to the bizarre to get any attention. There is a lot of anti-Islamic sentiment in America but most of it is more moderate and almost even reasonable. 

3. In my opinion, whoever made the film--Sam Bacile or Nakoula Basseley Nakoula or whoever it is--is not entirely to blame for the violence. The words of one extremist may have been the spark that literally set several embassies ablaze, but now the film protests are unpopular and most of the protesters haven’t even seen the video anyway. Many of them (at least in Egypt) are unhappy about unemployment or football or just looking to cause trouble. Those with strong anti-American sentiment had it long before this video turned up. Call me unpatriotic, but I think that to some extent the people of the Middle East have good reason to be angry at U.S. foreign policy and American public attitudes towards Muslims. That said, violence in response to words is not justified. Flag burnings and violence against embassies are never appropriate.

4. I hope it’s clear by now that the violence does not represent Libya, the Middle East, or Islam in general. In Benghazi there have been several pro-American demonstrations and apologies from both the government and the people. (I realize now that I’ve violated my own rule in the first point. Of course the events in Libya and the protests elsewhere can be seen as manifestations of a larger problem; just don’t say the film caused the Ambassador’s death.) Militancy and terrorism are not Islam any more than the Klu Klux Klan (or Terry Jones and Sam Bacile, I hope) is mainstream America.

I guess this is where I’m supposed to put in my plea for mutual understanding and religious tolerance and world peace and stuff. I will at least say that some people I know could never imagine going (or sending a teenager) to live in a Muslim country. They cannot fathom the idea of Muslims and Arabs as equals and reasonable humans. Let’s just try not to be hateful and judgmental and hope others can do the same.


  1. Your insight is both impressive and touching. I wish the people in the press an spin dr.s would be as clear and use the horse sense you have so brilliantly shared here.

    Still, be careful and be safe. Dont take risks where your safety is concerned. There are crazies everywhere, and Americans are not favorites.

  2. Brilliant, just remember what I said before you left, don't be stupid!

  3. I am glad for your thoughts Caleb! I hope people will learn to be respectful and tolerant on the US and the Middle East