Muslim protest in Benghazi, Libya

Muslim rioting spreads to Australia

Muslim protest in Benghazi, Libya
Muslim protest in Benghazi, Libya (Photo: STR/AFP/GettyImages)

(Updated Sept. 15 at 11:30 pm MDT)

I’ve been dumbfounded and appalled by world events the last few days, and things don’t seem to be getting any better. The rioting and demonstrations in the Muslim world have spread from North Africa and the Middle East to India, Pakistan, Indonesia, and now Australia.

Tuesday evening the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked and overrun. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three staff members were murdered. The pretext for the attacks — the first by a bunch a street thugs, and the second by a group of organized militants using the first attack as cover — was the movie “Innocence of Muslims,” a shoddy, amateurish video produced in the U.S. that depicts the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and worse.

That in itself was bad enough, but it got worse when Mitt Romney jumped in, totally misinformed, and accused President Obama of apologizing for American policies. The “apology” was (a) not an apology but a conciliatory message from Cairo embassy staff, and (b) not from or authorized by the president. The word “traitorous” came to mind when Romney attacked the president in the midst of a diplomatic crisis overseas, and the majority of his own party leaders condemned his response. Trying to make political hay while Americans overseas were being murdered was contemptible.

The embassy statement in question, since taken down and disavowed by the White House, was as follows:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

The protests across the Muslim world have been ongoing since Tuesday night, spreading to 10 or 11 different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Demonstrators, screaming their outrage over a petty, hateful little movie that is laughably amateurish and yet has had predictable, deadly consequences. Of course, most of them would never have heard of the movie if it hadn’t been widely televised in Egypt, so the idiot producer, Sam Bacile aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula aka 15 other names, can’t take all the “credit.”

Personally, I think the rioting in general is a gross overreaction to a really stupid little video, but then, I think killing, harming, or discriminating against anyone based on religion is absurd. The world might well be a more peaceful place without religion. The man who made the movie is a moron who either did it deliberately to provoke the rioting we are seeing, or was too damned stupid to comprehend what the reaction might be. That makes him much like the Koran-burning Florida preacher Terry Jones who, not surprisingly, supported the movie. In any case, he’s in hiding now, fearing for his life. Good. Our free speech laws may not give us a way to prosecute him (although it seems such intentional malice and hate should be punishable somehow), but if he has to live in hiding for the next few decades, that will be a small bit of justice for what he’s done.

As for events overseas, I don’t have much sympathy for the rioters. A few people have noted that since the rioters don’t understand how free speech in America works, they blame the U.S. government and America in general for the offensive movie. Frankly, I see it mostly as an excuse for young men, street thugs, the poor and unemployed, and the oppressed to vent their anger and frustration by attacking innocents and destroying property.

I blame the host countries for not controlling their citizenry and protecting our embassies, but I also wonder why our embassies have not had larger defensive forces on hand. Furthermore, since our embassies are the equivalent of American soil, I’m tempted to say our citizens should stay inside and shoot to kill anyone who breaks in. Meantime, why are we not either sending troops in to protect our embassies or pulling our people out?

Lastly, one rioter in Jerusalem reportedly said he’d rather die than be humiliated. I’m sure his death could be arranged if the humiliation is that overwhelming. Seems to me he’s not the one who was humiliated, but if that’s the way he thinks, I’m sure someone could accommodate him.

All in all, I’d say the rioters (not demonstrators; demonstrators are peaceful) are just giving in to mob mentality, using the movie as a pretext. They are giving the movie and its producer far more attention than either deserves, and they are making themselves look ridiculous and more than a little unhinged. I suspect Muhammad would not advocate their going out and murdering innocents in his name.

"Innocence of Muslims"
YouTube has so far refused to take down the trailer for “Innocence of Muslims,” a laughably bad video.

11 thoughts on “Muslim rioting spreads to Australia

  1. It’s not “religious fanaticism”, it’s politics. It’s about power. The people behind these flash mobs could give a shit whether some random screenwriter wrote their “prophet” was a child killer. What they needed was an excuse to start a fire, and they found a video on YouTube that could be the spark for their match. The “Arab Spring” was a qualified success, Egypt is quickly reasserting itself, Syria is falling apart, Iran is backed into a corner, and this is how they fight back. If it wasn’t this video, it’d be something Lady Gaga wore to the Grammy’s.

    These flash mobs aren’t even about “America”. Or some ideal “America” stands for. It’s about using ignorant rage as a political tool against a moderate government in Libya. It’s about a new government in Egypt trying to find a middle ground without knowing yet what the outside boundaries are. It’s about a lot of things, but it’s not about Islam, and it’s not about religion.

    1. You said it better than I did. But I did say, “Frankly, I see it mostly as an excuse for young men, street thugs, the poor and unemployed, and the oppressed to vent their anger and frustration by attacking innocents and destroying property.” Maybe I’ll rewrite the head.

      Violence in the name of religion is almost always about violence, not religion. Religion is just an excuse that violent people use.

    2. I agree with PT, Gabe, your analysis is spot-on. I would only add something about the Arab Spring situation that I have said elsewhere: it is hubris and naive for America to think we can export American values and culture. Now that’s not to say we should ignore our own principles, just that we should be more pragmatic about it. Frankly, America would be better off if Mubarak were still in power, and maybe even Daffy Qadaffi too. He was a wacko, but he had turned into OUR wacko there at the end.

      1. I’ve said for years that we have no business in the Middle East. Different values, different cultures. It’s not our place to tell those countries what to do or to try to “democratize” them unless they ask for our help. Democracy, equality for women, one man one vote, and religious tolerance? We can’t impose those on anyone who doesn’t want them and can’t or won’t support them. In fact, to one degree or another they are still under attack right here at home.

  2. We all saw what Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” did to the Muslim community. They take their religion very seriously. Right or wrong is not the point. The point being it is what it is – and the guy that created this had to have realized he was going to upset a lot of people. If not, then he is the epitome of worthless ignorance.

    1. I hope they nail him on parole violation, since being a fool is not a crime. And although the rioting Muslims represent only a very tiny percent of all Muslims, I keep wondering why the majority doesn’t speak out more against them, or take action against them.

  3. I’m not sure if I qualify to respond, given my new “inhuman” status, but I was watching some of these reports (how can you avoid them if you watch the news) and it appears that the motives of the protesters vary considerably. Aspects of Al Qaeda? Perhaps. And certainly aspects of extremists political parties – particularly in Libya as they lost the election, and this is a way for them to cause trouble for the moderate regime that won. Is there a large constituent of the protesters who are simply young men with nothing else to do? Yes, I think that’s probably the case, perhaps even the majority. And there are certainly those among them that actually feel like protesting the movie. Although those may or may not be the most violent among them. They can’t be fully defined as a group. They’re a collection of people with divergent motives – none of which are having any effect other than to encourage more violence, raise the ire of other Muslims (and in some cases the shame) and irritate the rest of the world. For Muslims, the reaction is an embarrassment. And if they don’t see it that way, then there’s the cultural divide you’re talking about.

    Another thing that has become evident in the responses I have read is that people do not understand what freedom of speech actually means, and seem to have the idea that the individual responsible for this stupid movie can and should be tried and punished for its production. For those of us who understand freedom of speech, we know exactly where that leads – to the “determination” of what is acceptable speech. And when someone makes that determination, there IS no freedom of speech. Everything becomes a heresy. Everything becomes a crime.

    So, yes. There is a cultural divide. A big one. Insurmountable? No. Requiring generations of re-education? Yes.

    1. So, yes. There is a cultural divide. A big one. Insurmountable? No. Requiring generations of re-education? Yes.

      Exactly, Dood. The re-education route is generations long and is far more difficult, but that is what the far-seeing Obama administration has chosen. Romney and the Right however are stridently calling for “leadership” which, in this case, is code for force. That’s a lot quicker and much more satisfying when the bunker buster goes off, but history proves that violence simply begets more violence and unites the opposition.

    2. But it isn’t up to us to try to close that cultural divide, is it? And if generations of re-education — or evolving or continuing education and enlightenment — are required, is it up to us to encourage and facilitate it? Shouldn’t we stay out of other countries and let them evolve in their own way, in their own time? Who’s to say that ours is the best way, or the only way? Those countries are centuries older than ours. Isn’t it the height of hubris and arrogance for us to carry on like ours is the best form of governance? I don’t like what’s going on in the Muslim world right now, but it is their world.

      1. I guess I don’t see it as being an issue of governance or government, but more of an issue of culture. In that regard, you are right in that it’s not our duty to interfere with their culture unless their culture interferes with ours. I do not advocate that. But when it comes to freedom of speech, I draw the line. That is something I will defend. As it has been said, “I may not agree with your point of view, but I’ll fight for your right to express it.” Freedom of speech isn’t an American value – it’s a personal value that should be shared by every person. If they don’t agree, they should have a right to say so. If they believe something else, they should have a right to say so. There are a lot of things I don’t agree with, but I never step on the ability of others to express those things. I may express my disagreement, but that is my right. Do we need to fight, or can we agree to disagree? That’s the issue.

        For an example, let’s take a culture that believes that one specific thing can never be mocked or lampooned or spoken of badly. Let us say this thing is a religious symbol, like an idol. If it is mocked by anyone, then the individuals that do so are at risk of being killed. In short, this culture justifies murder for what others says. Not what they do, but what they communicate. A cartoon, a sentence, a comment, can set them off, and justify murder.

        Compare this culture with a collection of many other cultures who do not believe in the sanctity of any symbols, and in which any of their citizens may mock any symbol at will. It may be frowned upon or argued, but their ability to do so cannot be infringed upon.

        Which culture should change? Should the free-speaking culture start prosecuting their people on behalf of the other, or should the other culture stop acting violently when one of the citizens of the free-speaking culture decides to push that button?

        If the restricted culture elects to join the rest of the world’s cultures – which is inevitable as they have no real choice other than isolationism, which is becoming impossible thanks to technology – then this button will be pressed over and over. Both cultures must mingle. How will they adapt?

        So when I say, “re-education” I do not mean educating them in classrooms or in some overt fashion. I mean the entire world educating them by example, by speech, by tolerance, by showing them how the speech of one person does not constitute a reason for violence, but rather a reason for debate. This “re-education” is social evolution, a force that can be ignored and resisted, but never escaped or fully controlled (despite some regimes attempting to do so). Throw a culture from ancient times into the modern world, bake a few generations, see what happens.

        We, as citizens, don’t have to do anything except grit our teeth and put up with it. Our governments don’t need to do anything except protect our citizens from the violence, and ask that their governments do the same. And, of course, we must hold true to the principles of freedom of speech. We know where the lack of that leads, and what it has done to humanity in the past. Mock my religion. Mock my beliefs. Do not expect me not to mock yours. This is the rule. Once it becomes understood, we can stop mocking each other and focus on something more constructive.

        1. Yes, leading by example is the way. Closed cultures cannot remain closed forever as modern communication spreads to every corner of the world. Repressed people will see for themselves how others live and decide for themselves if they want to adopt what they see (eg, the Arab Spring). And don’t doubt for a moment that I will defend freedom of speech in every instance, however distasteful that speech might be. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula pushes my tolerance to the limit with his deliberately hateful, malevolent movie, and it distresses me that anyone would abuse our freedom of speech in this way. Yet I must defend, in principle, his right to have made it.

... and that's my two cents