The Arab Spring turned ugly in Libya and Egypt on Tuesday, as angry crowds stormed U.S. diplomatic buildings killing Christopher Stevens – the U.S. Ambassador to Libya – and three other American diplomats. The deadly attack occurred on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya as an angry mob firing machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades stormed the building and set it on fire. Stevens is the first U.S. Ambassador to be killed on duty in more than 30 years.
The attack in Libya occurred just hours after angry protestors stormed the U.S. Embassy in Egypt – climbing the walls, taking down the American flag, and hoisting up a black Islamic banner. Both attacks were prompted by a movie made here in the United States by a California filmmaker who claims to be both American and Israeli. The movie depicts the prophet Muhammad as a fraudster and womanizer – something that is deeply offensive to the Muslim faith. The film was promoted by anti-Muslim organizations and a trailer for it was posted on Youtube sparking the outrage.
According to the filmmaker, who is now in hiding in the United States, he made the film to show that Islam is a “cancer.” President Obama strongly condemned the attacks and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released a statement saying, “we are heartbroken.” On the other hand, Mitt Romney and Republicans have used this tragedy to launch political attacks on the President – claiming that he sympathizes with the attackers. Of course Romney has employed the same foreign policy hacks and Islamophobes who served under George W. Bush.
This all demonstrates the damage that Islamophobia at home can do to our troops and diplomats abroad. And while we can’t make judgments on millions of Egyptians and Libyans based on the senseless acts of an angry mob any more than we can condemn Los Angeles for the riots after the Rodney King beating – we can say there are deep grievances that go way beyond religion in these nations that must be resolved before the dreams of the Arab Spring can finally be fulfilled.
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