Movie that sparked murders in Libya has yet to reach Iran and Pakistan: expect more bloodshed
Nothing can possibly justify the murder of diplomatic staff and the wholly disproportionate response to a meagre film that is playing out in Libya and Egypt. Sadly, this may just be the start
Angry demonstrators in Egypt and Libya have attacked US embassies, leaving four US officials – including the US Ambassador to Libya – dead and causing other staff to flee for their safety. The attacks follow the on-line release of a movie called ‘Innocence of Muslims’, which mocks the Prophet Muhammad and depicts Muslims as blood-thirsty maniacs.
Demonstrators swarmed on the US Embassy in Cairo and the US consulate in Benghazi this morning. The protests were led by extreme Salafist factions in Benghazi, who set fire to the consulate and proceeded to kill the US Ambassador and others. Calmer protests, led by Coptic Christians and Muslims, were also held in Egypt.
The movie itself was made by an Israel-American business man called Sam Becile on a supposed 'five million dollar' budget. The film is also being promoted by Pastor Terry Jones of ‘burn the Quran’ fame and has recently been translated into Arabic. Becile has claimed that the movie will showcase the ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘hateful’ nature of Islam.
Having seen parts of the movie, it is without doubt in very poor taste and has absolutely no intellectual or artistic merit. The script and acting lack quality, as does the sound, lighting, costume and just about everything else. In fact, I very much doubt that it had a five million dollar budget. It seems Sam has set out to produce something that is merely gratuitously offensive, in a very seedy and humourless way. The Muslim version of ‘The Life of Brian’ it is not.
The best response to such a movie is to simply ignore it. It was very unlikely to have had any impact whatsoever, particularly owing to its poor production. The news of the protests will only help to popularise the movie now and increase the number of people who view it online.
Furthermore, violent protests are perhaps exactly what the producers hoped for; slaying four innocent bystanders is hardly the best way to disprove the sweeping and lazily-constructed image of Muslims as blood-thirsty maniacs.
That said, nothing can possibly justify the murder of diplomatic staff and the wholly disproportionate response to a meagre film. The perpetrators must be brought to justice. Sadly, that is highly unlikely in Libya right now.
The US government has been very quick to condemn the movie and its makers. Secretary Clinton said "The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation.” She went on to say "But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind."
Her comments were seized upon by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who stated "It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks.” Obama’s team retorted by accusing Romney of cynicism and opportunism at a difficult and sensitive time. This spat will, undoubtedly, become a feature of the upcoming US elections.
Looking ahead, details about this movie have yet to reach Iran and Pakistan which, let’s just say, have more than their fair share of hotheads. With tensions in Mali also predicted to flare up, what has just taken place in North Africa may only just be the start.
Ghaffar Hussain is a counter terrorism expert and Contributing Editor to The Commentator
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