Coming back to haunt

Christopher Stevens

American Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens along with three US diplomats died on September 12 when a mob, armed with weapons and driven by raging sentiments, attacked the US consulate in Benghazi.

The violence was caused by a recent film, ‘The innocence of Muslims’, ridiculing Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made by an Israeli-American real estate developer in California. As soon as the film was uploaded on Social Media, coupled with the statement of Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Florida, calling the film ‘an American production not designed to attack the Muslims but to show the destructive ideology of Islam’, a series of protests broke out in Cairo, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East, the deadliest being the Benghazi massacre where 200 protestors attacked the US consulate with rocket-propelled grenades and set it ablaze.

President Obama has strongly reacted over the incident, saying that justice will be done. To bolster the security of the US missions in Libya and to identify the perpetrators of the crime, a 50-strong US Marines anti-terrorist security team has been dispatched to Libya. However, not a single word is uttered over the incident that provoked such a violent reaction and has bought into question Obama’s claim of the US not being against Muslims or Islam but terrorism. The indifference to the religious sentiments of Muslims is bound to encourage extremist elements and on the other hand make Islamophobia worse.

It could not be a coincidence that the film was released on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 that had sparked a never-ending wave of violence across the world by terrorists. Earlier it was Pastor Terry Jones who first threatened to burn the Quran and later burnt a copy of it in his church. This irresponsible act inspired deadly riots in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. Some years back in Denmark the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) were published in a newspaper. That too brought bad blood between Muslims and the west. What started in the name of freedom of expression has become a source of oppression blowing back to the supporters of the former in its worst form.

How could one separate freedom from responsibility is anybody’s guess. In case the two are considered separable, animosity followed by violence becomes the ultimate source of revenge by the aggrieved party. This is what has happened in the Muslim world when in the name of freedom of expression their religious sentiments have been violated. Religious intolerance amongst US soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq has earlier been traced to their military education, where Islam has been presented as a source of all the evils in the world. The recent killing of six Sikhs in their temple in Wisconsin, USA, when they were mistaken for Muslims, is another example of rising religious intolerance in the US that needs to be remedied before it turns uglier.

Obviously what has happened in Libya cannot be justified in any way. Protest is a just right of any citizen but turning violent is not permissible, that too becoming a mob and killing people who have nothing to do with the actual incident. It is in this spirit that Muhammad Morsi, the President of Egypt, has asked his people to stage a peaceful protest on Friday. The ordeal that has started in the wake of this short film should not spike another wave of aggression bringing more injuries to the world already battered by wars and internal strife, especially in the Middle East. – Dailytimes