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Friday, September 14, 2012

At What Point the Line? America Must Protect Foreign Protests.

Angry protests by Muslims have been directed
at U.S. diplomatic missions in at least 11 countries this week.

("US Missions Brace for Protests as Muslim Anger Over Film Spreads," NBC News, The Associated Press and Reuters, September 14 2012)

! Attackers killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at the U.S. Consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

! Young men in Cairo scaled the walls of the U.S. Embassy and tore down and burned the American flag there.

! The embassy in Yemen told U.S. citizens it expected more protests and that it would be closing its consular services on Saturday.

! In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, about 200 protesters vented their anger by chanting "death to Jews!" and "death to America!" in a largely peaceful protest outside the heavily guarded U.S. Embassy in Jakarta.

! About 200 demonstrators gathered Friday outside the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait and hoisted banners.

! In Bangladesh, Islamists tried to march on the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka, and Iranian students protested in Tehran.

! There were protests outside U.S. missions in Tunisia, Morocco and Sudan and state-backed Islamic scholars in Sudan have called for a mass protest after this Friday prayers.

! In Nigeria, the government put police on high alert and stepped up security around all foreign missions, also fearing an Islamist backlash, possibly after this Friday prayers.

In America, most people tend to generalize and stereotype all Muslims. In truth, destruction and death in the name of Islam is carried out by Muslim extremists.

When an American extremist such as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (alias Sam Bacile) produces an irreverent film like Innocence of Muslims, most people in the United States do not object because the idiot (convicted felon for meth manufacturing and bank fraud) is merely exercising his Constitutional rights of expression. No matter how objectionable the product, the potential harm is forgiven in the name of freedom and liberty. Yet, Nakoula did this in times of extreme sensitivity over religious matters and government policy in the Middle East.

Here is what happened according to Elizabeth Flock of U.S. News:

"The film appears to have first popped up on YouTube in July, in the form of a 14-minute English-language trailer. Few watched it. The film was reposted to YouTube last week, this time dubbed into Arabic. And according to the New York Times Lede blog, that version was soon copied on YouTube again and again.

It picked up steam when it was posted to "Nacopticas," a blog run by an Egyptian-American lawyer and Coptic Christian named Morris Sadek. Also on Sadek's site: a photo of himself alongside Terry Jones, the Florida pastor infamous for having burned copies of the Koran.

Sadek is known for his anti-Muslim screeds, and for having had his Egyptian citizenship revoked in May 2011 after he allegedly called for attacks on Egypt. Sadek, who lives in the U.S., has filed multiple, unsuccessful lawsuits to regain his citizenship.

But Sadek's promotion of the film didn't stop with his blog. In an interview with the Associated Press, he told the wire service he promoted the film on Egyptian television stations as well. Sadek did not respond to request for comment from U.S. News.

A broadcast on one station, an Egyptian channel called Al-Nas, appears to have been the tipping point for the film.

Al-Nas is an immensely popular, and very religious channel whose motto is "a channel that will take you to heaven." Earlier this week, a complaint was filed against Al-Nas for allegedly "inciting strife between Muslims and Christians" in an unrelated incident.

A scene from the trailer of "Innocence of Muslims" was broadcast on Al-Nas just days ago by host Sheikh Khaled Abdalla. The particularly controversial scene depicted the prophet Muhammad as a "buffoonish caricature," according to the Lede.

(Elizabeth Flock, "How 'Innocence of Muslims' Spread Around the Globe and Killed a US Diplomat, U.S. News, September 12 2012)

We all know that the film alone did not cause the death of the diplomats; however, Nakoula, Sedek and Jones are responsible parties. Each should answer for his own part in the tragedy that followed the film's production and distribution. You see, in America people have freedom of speech and expression but not without limits. Indeed, an American cannot incite a riot in a crowded theater by jokingly yelling "Fire!" without paying the consequences.

We must learn to "walk a few steps" in the shoes of a person in another culture, especially now when our government chooses to become engaged with so many hostile countries in the volatile Middle East that hold many views foreign to ours.

We, too, know outrage. How do we American Christians feel when we see others distort our beliefs and make vulgar, obscene references to Jesus Christ? How do we Americans feel when we see foreigners burn and deface our American flag? How do our veterans feel when they see someone proudly displaying a Swastika? Our forefathers have held religion and sacred symbols with deepest emotional attachment. It angers me when I see a man refuse to remove his hat during the playing of the "Star Spangled Banner."

But, the real question is "Do we hold all Muslims guilty for the destruction and murderous acts of some Islamist religious extremists?" We must surely say that people all over the globe have the right to protest -- even those in Islamic countries who protest against the United States. We cannot be hypocritical and deny foreign countries the same rights we hold sacred. Those who committed the crimes must be punished just like the American who yelled "Fire!" in the crowed theater, yet those who simply voiced their protests must be protected.

This does not mean foreign countries should not control their angry mobs and demonstrations. It does mean that these countries must respect our missions and protect them. Yet, when crowds disapprove of their treatment or conditions, we, as the United States, know the need for protests. It is very hard living up to democratic ideals, but we must. I say punish the wrong actions, not the thoughts.

We are freedom loving Americans whose mission includes understanding the needs and beliefs of others. I believe it is not our job to change the cultures, the religious beliefs, or the social norms of a foreign country unless we can prove that nation put us in imminent danger. Surely, people in all lands can find common ground to live together peaceably.

Why Do Islamist Extremists Hate America?

I believe in order to solve problems, we must first look at the opposition and fully understand their position. I do not have to believe in or practice the tenets of anyone to display tolerance and explore their discontent. Without this important knowledge, I find my own principles are weak. And, I hope my allegiance to mankind takes precedence over questionable religious preferences, nationalism, and politics.

Here is a list of reasons why some Muslims dislike America. It is, by no means, comprehensive. And, it certainly is not detailed. I post these reasons today to benefit those who wish to increase their understanding of important world matters. My hope is that we can better coexist.

* They believe in compelling modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that they view as their homeland.

(McConnell, Scott. 2005. "The Logic of Suicide Terrorism". The American Conservative Magazine. The American Conservative)

* They believe America is an empire much the same as the Russian, Ottoman, and Habsburg empires of the past, and they believe they are resisting the threat of being under a single sovereign authority.

(Albert J. Bergesen and Omar Lizardo. March 2004. "Theories of Terrorism: A Symposium." Sociological Theory 22: 38–52)

* They believe in a moral logic through an interpretation of Islam to create a future Lebanon which will regain stability through Islamic law and justice, and embark on a redeeming struggle against those who would banish Islam from the earth.

They feel Hizballah is the "party of God," as evidenced by their slogan“And verily the party of God is sure to triumph.”

("Islamic Ethics." Encyclopedia of Ethics)

* They believe that U.S. foreign policy has oppressed, killed, or otherwise harmed Muslims in the Middle East, condensed in the phrase "They hate us for what we do, not who we are." Policies such as the U.S.-led intervention in Afghanistan and invasion of Iraq; Israel–United States relations, namely, financial, military, and political support for Israel; U.S. support for "apostate" police states in Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Pakistan, Algeria, Morocco, and Kuwait.

(Michael Scheuer. Through Our Enemies' Eyes. Washington, DC: Potomac Books, 2006)

* They believe in divinely sanctioned warfare against apostates. According to Islamic law apostasy is identified by a list of actions such as conversion to another religion, denying the existence of God, rejecting the prophets, mocking God or the prophets, idol worship, rejecting the sharia, or permitting behavior that is forbidden by the sharia, such as adultery or the eating of forbidden foods or drinking of alcoholic beverages.

Jihad is defined as: "A religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad ... enjoined especially for the purpose of advancing Islam and repelling evil from Muslims." Militants generally use jihad to mean defensive or retaliatory warfare against actors that have allegedly harmed Muslims. Islamists often identify what they see as a historical struggle between Christianity and Islam, dating back as far as the Crusades.

(International Humanist and Ethical Union. "The Fate of Infidels and Apostates under Islam | International Humanist and Ethical Union." 2005)

* They believe, due to displacement (largely caused by America), they must establish small-group dynamics involving friends and family that form the diaspora cell of brotherhood and camaraderie on which the rising tide of martyrdom actions is based.

Diaspora is defined as "the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland" For example, tens of thousands of Iraqis have fled conflict in their nation since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

(Scott Atran, The Moral Logic and Growth of Suicide Terrorism. 2006)

Author Lawrence Wright described the characteristic of "displacement" of members of the most famous Islamic terrorist group, al-Qaeda:
"What the recruits tended to have in common – besides their urbanity, their cosmopolitan backgrounds, their education, their facility with languages, and their computer skills – was displacement. Most who joined the jihad did so in a country other than the one in which they were reared. They were Algerians living in expatriate enclaves in France, Moroccans in Spain, or Yemenis in Saudi Arabia. Despite their accomplishments, they had little standing in the host societies where they lived." 
 (Wright, Loming Tower, 2006)

* They believe America has contributed to the fact that the Muslim world has been afflicted with economic stagnation for many centuries. In this stagnation, poverty, trauma, and ignorance have grown.

In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama, himself, stated that apart from crude oil, the exports of the entire Greater Middle East with its 400 million population roughly equals that of Switzerland. Strong population growth combined with economic stagnation has created urban conglomerations.

(Singletary, Michelle. 19 May 2011. "The Economics of Obama's Arab Spring Speech". The Washington Post)

* They believe they must oppose Western society for what they see as immoral secularism (a movement towards the separation of religion and government). Islamists have claimed that such unrestricted free speech has led to the proliferation of pornography, immorality, secularism, homosexuality, feminism, and many other ideas that Islamists often oppose. The following is taken from correspondence in bin Laden's own words:

"We call you to be a people of manners, principles, honour, and purity; to reject the immoral acts of fornication, homosexuality, intoxicants, gambling's, and trading with interest (...) You separate religion from your policies, (...) You are the nation that permits Usury, which has been forbidden by all the religions (...) You are a nation that permits the production, trading and usage of intoxicants (...) You are a nation that permits acts of immorality (...) You are a nation that permits gambling in its all forms. (...) You use women to serve passengers, visitors, and strangers to increase your profit margins. You then rant that you support the liberation of women."

(bin Laden's '"Letter to America")

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