“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
- The Second Coming, William Butler Yeats.
The problem dealing with the protests erupting across the Muslim world is similar to the problem I have with this article: it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s a circular problem – no discernible beginning or end. The circle does have a very clear center, though—Zealotry—and its bony fingers are holding on through blood and fire. What’s undeniable though is that there is a severe disconnect between Western values and the Muslim world. The protests of the Arab Spring were hailed as the birth of democracy in lands previously ruled with iron fists. Yet, in light of the recent protests, many are wondering if the problem was not the regimes but those they governed.
It all began with a video. A 14-minute trailer for a film that may not even exist hit the web this summer but it wasn’t until the 11th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks that the world of Islam took notice. Actors smeared with brown make-up ham it up in front of awful green screens and throughout depict the prophet Mohammed as an idiotic sexual deviant and bloodthirsty murderer. Understandably, the film would be offensive to Muslims ever without the provision against images of their profit. The film is so awful, it’s almost laughable.
Of course, there’s nothing funny about the response it set-off. Muslims began to gather in front of the US Embassy in Cairo, protesting not just the film but the United States for not censoring it. Against the wishes of Washington, the Embassy tweeted a message in both English and Arabic denouncing the film as any official government institution would denounce any form of “hate speech.” The mob was not satisfied and the protest turned violent and other protests erupted across the globe, the peak of which was the seemingly coordinated attack on the US Embassy in Libya. Here, the problems really began.
Part of the problem, I think, is our penchant for navel-gazing. The bodies of Ambassador Stevens and the other slain Americans were not even back on native soil before the attack became fodder for the Presidential campaign. Republican nominee Mitt Romney blasted the Obama Administration for the Cairo tweet, even though the Administration said it did not reflect the official position of the United States government. The media ran with the story and the narrative that the President, and later Secretary of State Clinton, apologized for the film and free speech in general.
The media continued to get things wrong. The Wall Street Journal and subsequent media outlets reported that the filmmaker was an Israeli who made the film with $5 million donated from Jewish Americans. This proved to be not true and in fact everyone associated with the creation of the film has been associated with anti-Muslim, anti-US Government Christians. One set of zealots inflaming another.
One thing that Romney got right was that this film, deplorable though it may be, is protected by freedom of speech. This is a sentiment echoed by the Obama Administration as well, but it’s far more understated coming from them. The appropriate official position is the one taken by the government – the film is offensive and shameful, but the filmmaker did have the right to make it. This is the fundamental principle of a free democracy that the protestors fail to understand.
What should be enraging to Americans is not the finger-pointing of politicians or reporters, but the incredible failures of the host countries to curtail the extremism. The authority of the US protection forces, private or military, end at the gates of the Embassy. It is the responsibility of the host country to ensure protection and that just didn’t happen. Peaceful Muslims and the governments of these countries are best-suited to calm the throngs of the blighted faithful. Until that happens America will be seen as an encroaching empire bent on the destruction of Islam to the uneducated masses. The protesters, like those who made the film, are so blinded by their zealotry that no amount of reason or logic will ever reach them.
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