In the past four days, thousands have taken to the streets across the Middle East and North Africa to join in the protests against an anti-Islamic film as well as the country in which it was produced, the United States.
This film, which was produced in the US by extreme anti-Islamic groups, was released on YouTube in July. It has recently gotten worldwide attention and has been viewed by many Islamic countries as incredibly offensive.
In the film, Innocence of Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad is portrayed as a womanizer, pedophile, and fraud. The film was apparently intended to provoke the Arab world, and it certainly succeeded in doing so. The video footage spread like wildfire, and has prompted protests and public demonstrations in nearly 20 nations across the region.
From Morocco to Bangladesh, people are turning out in mass numbers to express their anti-American sentiment. Western diplomatic buildings, including US embassies and those of allies, namely the UK and Germany, have now been attacked in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Tunisia, Sudan, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip.
These recent events are bringing up interesting debates concerning social media and how quickly it allows news to become viral. It seems absolutely wild that a poor quality, low-budget and previously unnoticed independent film can get so much international attention. It has been disheartening these past few days to see there are those who refuse to differentiate between the US and its free speech laws that allow anyone to legally profess their beliefs, no matter how unpopular they are. However, this also may be the perfect time for us to take a step back and honestly analyze how Islam is too often negatively portrayed in this country and what we can do about it.
And while I don’t believe it is fair to blame an entire country for the actions of a few filled with hate, I am inclined to wonder if this is the region’s way of finally saying in a semi-united manner, “America: your interests and values are no longer welcome here.”
President Obama has vowed to bring those responsible for the Benghazi attack, specifically, to justice. Will this mean a lesson for the Middle East and North Africa in diplomacy and expressing dissatisfaction through peaceful means? Or will it result in Obama being forced to utilize military action? Either way, this sticky situation, two months before the election, has the potential to make or break him in the area of foreign policy.