Violence has spread across the Middle East and North Africa, while two US Embassy’s have been attacked in Egypt and Yemen after the amateur US Film – Innocence of Muslims – was deemed to depict the Prophet Muhammad as a homosexual, womaniser and child abuser.
The US ambassador to Libya died of smoke inhalation at the Benghazi Medical Centre, Libya, after an enraged mob attacked the consulate where he was located. Three of his staff – two marines and a press officer – were also killed in the attack which has led US President Barack Obama to call for an immediate increase in protection for all potentially vulnerable foreign officials. Obama stated “There is absolutely no justification for this type of senseless violence”. The BBC is now reporting that although the US film was initially blamed for the attacks, many located in Benghazi say that it was a coordinated and ‘complex‘ attack that used the local protests as a stage for the assault.
It is not the first time that violence has been the quick emotional reaction for Muslims offended by depictions of Muhammad in the media. The offices of French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo were firebombed last year by those offended by a cover that depicted Muhammad under the caption ‘100 lashes if you don’t die of laughter”. Perhaps most famous is the controversy that surrounded Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, which after publication gained Mr Rushdie a swift fatwa by Islamic clerics on the basis of blasphemy. The cleric that issued the fatwa – Ayatollah Khomeini – was reported as stating: I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses book, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who are aware of its content are sentenced to death.”
These events echo the happenings of the past week; history repeats itself. The Muslim people are so fragile in their offense of the media that it would be amusing if not for the very real threat of harm that some of the more hardline believers continue to incite. What is strange about the scenario, and what still seems to occur is that the media is attacked for provocation, while the violent acts of those ‘offended’ is deemed, if not acceptable, then understandable by some of the public, commentators and even government officials.
The recent coverage of the ‘Arab Spring’ gave the impression of a population willing to change, a people willing to stand against tyranny. The actions of the past week – car burnings, window smashing, invasion of US embassy’s, death threats, gunshots and murder – shows us that the ability to remove a vain, power-hungry and bloodstained dictator does not mask the vain, power-hungry and bloodstained spirituality that remains, forever balancing fragile religious beliefs with all too often outbursts of extreme violence.