It is heart-warming and inspiring to see the evidently deep friendship between satirists Jon Stewart and Bassem Youssef, two popular comedians in their respective nations who have a finger on the pulse, not only of their own culture but global culture.
Jon Stewart also wrote in praise of Bassem Youssef for TIME’s 100 most influential people, (Bassem is #39). One hopes that the establishment in Egypt that has it out for Bassem Youssef gets the message: you just look plain silly trying to repress someone like Bassem Youssef.
All I have to say to Bassem and Jon is get a room! (h/t: Heinz Catsup)
Christians face discrimination in many places in the Muslim world, including in Egypt, however it certainly doesn’t help when Fox News, a bastion of Right-Wing fundamentalism (of both the political and religious variety) pushes misleading stories.
Islamic hard-liners stormed a mosque in suburban Cairo, turning it into torture chamber for Christians who had been demonstrating against the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in the latest case of violent persecution that experts fear will only get worse.
As you can see there is a fair bit of editorializing. Fox contradicts their own narration that this was an “Islamic hard-liners vs. Christians” demonstration,
Demonstrators, some of whom were Muslim, say they were taken from the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in suburban Cairo to a nearby mosque on Friday and tortured for hours by hard-line militia members.
Is this “militia” to go unnamed?
In fact the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and anti-Muslim Brotherhood groups clearly transcends the sectarian divide. For months there have been tensions in Egypt between the ruling party and opponents, sometimes spilling into violence; Brotherhood offices have been torched and ransacked while opponents of Morsi have been killed in clashes, jailed and have had peaceful protests disrupted.
Of course, Fox News is trying to fire-up another Randolph Linn and hence any of the complexities and nuance of the situation will be glossed over and left out of the context; we know that Islamophobia is a central position at Fox, being an integral part of Roger Ailes‘ strategy.
A more sober report by Ahram Online on the incident gives us a realistic picture, leaving out the false reporting about the protest as a “Christians vs. Muslims” conflagration:
The board of directors of a community-funded religious centre in Cairo’s Moqattam district – located near the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters – issued a statement on Monday confirming that “members of the Islamist current” had taken control of the mosque during Friday’s bloody clashes between protesters and Muslim Brotherhood supporters.
Anti-Brotherhood protesters had accused Brotherhood members and supporters of holding and torturing their opponents inside the mosque during street battles.
The Belal Ibn Rabbah Mosque lies in the Nafoura square where scuffles broke out between both groups on Friday.
Media reports in the past 72 hours had cited witnesses, some of whom said they are Moqattam residents, who claimed to have been brutally tortured at the hands of Brotherhood members inside the mosque on the day of the clashes.
The statement issued by the mosque’s board of directors is the first document to corroborate claims made by anti-Brotherhood protesters that supporters of the ruling Islamist group had occupied the mosque.
Muslim Brotherhood Secretary-General Mahmoud Hussein had accused protesters of breaking into mosques following Friday’s clashes.
The centre stated that it had filed an official legal complaint about the incident.
Egypt’s prosecution-general, meanwhile, has subpoenaed on Monday several political activists accused of “inciting and committing violence against the Brotherhood’s headquarters and group members.”
Prosecutor-General Talaat Abdullah ordered the subpoenas based on a complaint filed by Brotherhood lawyer Abdel-Moneim Abdel-Maksoud on Monday morning against 169 individuals – including opposition figures and “thugs” – accused of of instigating attacks on the Islamist group’s headquarters.
If Fox News was trying to feed its base’s “Christian persecution complex” they succeeded as the comments were, as you would expect, extremely anti-Muslim, verging at times on the genocidal.
Mick Wagner talks about burning the mosque down and sonarguy thinks Islam should be erased from the earth:
Scott Willis links it back to the USA:
brunsk42 brings Obama into it:
Some want to nuke the Egyptians, like totalpeon doing his best impersonation of Eric Allen Bell:
This is only a representative sampling of the 160 or so comments on the Fox article which was predictably and faithfully reproduced by the looniverse.
Such media malfeasance at Fox is nothing new or surprising and just highlights how easy it is in our present climate to get away with bashing Muslims and Islam.
On the Coptic Christmas holiday, Imam Mazhar Shaheen of the Omar Makram Mosque visited his friend and confidante the Pastor of the Qasr Al-Dubarah Church, Samih Morees, along with a thousand Muslims to extend well-wishes and greetings to their Christian neighbors. He was asked to speak, and his message was a resounding clarion call for tolerance, respect, dignity, humanity and unity amidst difference and tumult. He also stated that Christians and Muslims must be united against any foreign and internal plots at increasing sectarianism or imposing Imperialist/Colonialist designs on the Egyptian nation.
This is the type of story that Islamophobes wish to erase and suffocate because it does not fit their pre-set narrative regarding the role and position of Christians in the Middle East. They want an unholy war but it seems Juan Cole is correct, we are actually witnessing in the midst of uncertainty the strong possibilities of a flowering of Eastern Christianity. (h/t: All those who sent this in)
An excellent article by Juan Cole on the mostly wrong arguments regarding the so-called “decline of Christians” in the Middle East. In point of fact the ancient strains of Eastern Christianity: Coptic, Orthodox and other indigenous strains are possibly in a position to see a new era of renewal and unprecedented efflorescence. (h/t: Razainc.)
There are more Middle Eastern Christians than ever before, and they are poised between emergence as a new political force in a democratizing region and the dangers to them of fundamentalism and political repression. The arguments you see for Christian decline in the region are mostly wrong. If we count the Christians in the Arab world and along the northern Red Sea littoral (Egypt, the Levant, Iraq and the Horn of Africa to the borders of Ethiopia) they come to some 21 million, nearly the size of Australia and bigger than the Netherlands. (This figure does not count the large Christian expatriate populations in the Gulf emirates or Christians in Iran and Pakistan). They are important in their absolute numbers, which have grown dramatically in the past 60 years along with the populations of the countries in which they live. If the region moves to parliamentary forms of government, they may well be coveted swing voters, gaining a larger political role and louder voice than ever before.
In fact, despite all the hype about the rise of Islam in Europe, Muslims in that continent have on the whole much less potential influence than Christians in the Middle East. About 5% of the French electorate is Muslims, the largest proportion in Europe. But Christians are 10 percent of Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and 22 percent of Lebanon. Even in Israel, they are 2 percent of the population, a little less than the percentage of contemporary Italy that is Muslim.
Among the biggest dangers to Middle Eastern Christians in 2012 were these:
1. Israeli occupation has made life in East Jerusalem and the West Bank increasingly unbearable, spurring emigration abroad of Palestinian Christians, who once made up 10 to 20 percent of the Palestinian population. Because they are Christians, these Palestinians may find it easier to get visas to the West.
2. The Syrian civil war has displaced or endangered many Syrian Christians, who make up between 10 and 14 percent of the 22-million strong Syrian population. At the upper estimates, there are as many as three million Syrian Christians. There are allegations that Christians have been targeted by hard line fundamentalist militias, but most probably suffer from the same difficulties other Syrians are facing.
3. Iraqi Christian expatriates in Syria are also in trouble. Before George W. Bush invaded Iraq, there were about 800,000 Christians in a population of 25 million, or 3 percent of the population. Some 400,000 are said to have emigrated, mainly to Syria (and about 10,000 to Lebanon), as refugees. But now many of those who went to Syria are returning to Iraq. Inside Iraq itself,some Christians say the situation has improved for them to the pointthat they are committed to staying in the country rather than emigrating.
4. The newly enacted fundamentalist constitution in Egypt and the power of the Muslim Brotherhood president, Muhammad Morsi, poses dangers to Egyptian Christians. It is alleged that hard line Salafis attempted to intimidate them from voting against the constitution in this month’s referendum. On the other hand, Egyptian Christians have clearly been invigorated by the new press and political freedoms in post-Mubarak Egypt, and are gaining an important set of political voices.
5. In the new country of South Sudan, Christians form between 10% and 50% of the 8 million population (the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church each claim about 2 million believers in that country. Christians in the region may thus have gained a great deal of influence in a whole new state. Earlier estimates from the mid-20th century of only 10% Christian are probably out of date and do not take account of the large number of conversions since then). The challenges here are enormous, though. The partition of Sudan has not in fact led to social peace between the two, with continued confrontation over oil exports and saber rattling. (Sudan is inarguably in the Middle East, and I have hung around with South Sudanese and was surprised how many spoke Bedouin Arabic).
6. Christians are about 60% of the 6 million-strong population of Eritrea. They are Coptic Orthodox, the same as most Egyptian Christians. (Eritrea is not usually counted in as being part of the Middle East, but it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire and has substantial cultural and political relations with Yemen and Saudi Arabia, so it is as eligible as Sudan and Somalia). Eritreans suffer under authoritarian government and continued tensions with Ethiopia.
Christians in Iraq and Syria have faced challenges (as have the entire populations of those two countries) in the past year. Christians in Egypt are alarmed by the new political muscle of the Muslim Brotherhood. It would be easy to construct a ‘vale of tears’ kind of narrative of Middle Eastern Christianity in decline, since the communities face political turmoil. It is often alleged that the proportion of Christians in the region has declined, though it is not clear that this allegation is true on a regional basis.
This argument from a declining proportion of the population does not take account of the region’s amazing population growth. It also makes analogies from the small nations of Lebanon and Palestine, which actually have an unusual demographic profile.
It is controversial what proportion of Egypt is Christian, but it is probably around 10 percent. A lot of Christians live in rural areas where census takers may not have gotten a complete count. Egypt’s population is 83 million, so that would give 8.3 million Christians. There is no reason to think that their proportion in Egypt has declined (in fact they may be somewhat higher a proportion now than in the 19th century).
Egypt’s population in 1950 was about 20 million, at which time there were 2 million Christians. Because Egyptian Christians are substantially rural, they appear to have shared in the high population growth rates typical of global south farmers in the second half of the 20th century.
Today’s Christian population in Egypt, some 8.3 million, is roughly the size of the whole country of Austria! Allegations that 100,000 Egyptians have emigrated since the revolution in February 2012, and that most of these are Christians, are not to my knowledge substantiated, and they seem exaggerated. Even if there was something to the assertion, it isn’t a big dent in a population of 8.3 million.
If we went back to 1850, in absolute terms the number of Christians in Egypt and the Levant was tiny. 500,000 in Egypt, 150,000 in Lebanon and Syria together, 35,000 in Palestine, perhaps 45,000 in Iraq. That is 730,000. So in absolute terms, Egypt alone now has more than 11 times as many Christians as lived in the central lands of the Middle East 162 years ago. How is that a decline?
The argument for decline is usually made from Lebanon, where Christians were a bare majority in 1931, but are now something like 22%. But Lebanon’s population was about 800,000 in 1931, so Christians were 408,000. Lebanon’s population is now 5 million, and Christians inside the country are about 1.1 million. So with all the vast Christian Lebanese emigration abroad, to Brazil, Argentina, Chile, the United States, Mexico, etc. (with perhaps 6 million Lebanese-descended people in the New World), there are still twice as many Christians in Lebanon in absolute terms now as there were in 1931. And although it is consequential politically that Lebanese Christians are now less than a third of the adult electorate, they are hardly powerless. They dominate the presidency, the officer corps, and the business world, and they are split between allying with the Sunni Muslims and allying with the Shiites, which gives them influence as a swing vote.
Christian power in Lebanon comes in part from the country’s clan system and in part from its long history of parliamentary governance. For instance, it is important for the Shiite party, Hizbullah, to have Christian allies in the Biqaa valley. This principle holds true elsewhere. There is every prospect that as parties are formed and become important in contesting elections in Egypt, the 8 million Coptic Christian votes will be courted, and will make themselves felt in policy. Likewise, if Syria moves to a parliamentary system, the 3 million Christians there will be a force to be reckoned with in Syrian politics.
In Jordan, Christians are 10 percent of the 6 million strong population, or 600,000.
These are parlous times for Middle Eastern populations who are challenging older forms of government rooted in mid-20th century notions of nationalism, socialism and a leading role for the military. We don’t know how this story will turn out. The “Islamic winter” notion of the Neoconservatives (who were unhappy that the American public was identifying with rebellious Arab youth), however, is way too simplistic. The Muslim fundamentalists took a bath in the Libyan elections last July. The Nahda Party in Tunisia only got about 37% of seats in parliament and could only form a government in coalition with a secular party; they have renounced trying to put Islamic law or sharia in the constitution. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Muhammad Morsi, won the presidency in June with only 51% of the vote, and his proposed constitution lost in the megalopolis of Cairo and only got a third of registered voters to go to the polls. Egyptian Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has founded a political party, and I very much doubt he plans to emigrate.
The old Middle Eastern dictatorships often exploited Christians or subordinated them. The Christians were deprived of a voice and of the chance for autonomous political action just like everyone else. But now, they are potentially in a position to organize, speak out and vote as never before. And they are arguably more numerous in absolute terms than ever before. From the point of view of a social historian, these days could be the beginning of an unprecedented efflorescence of Christianity in the region– not Western-missionary, Christianity, not evangelicalism or fundamentalism, but Coptic Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodoxy, and other indigenous and ancient strains. There are no guarantees in life, but let us give them a chance, on this day when their religion was born.
“MUSLIM RAGE,” screams Newsweek‘s new cover story about last week’s violent anti-American protests. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the well-known anti-Islam activist, is here to tell “us” (The_West) how to “end it.” And it’s true, isn’t it? All Muslims are constantly raging about everything. So to pay tribute to Ali’s article — which describes the protesters as “the mainstream of contemporary Islam” — and the subtle, smart cover that accompanies it, we’ve collected 13 striking, powerful images of MUSLIM RAGE.
What are Muslims so mad about? Twitter (“Want to discuss our latest cover? Let’s hear it with the hashtag: #MuslimRage,” Newsweek begs us) has some answers:
Indeed, as everyone knows, Muslims, and especially Arab Muslims, have no lives, feelings or thoughts external to constant, violent rage, directed at old white people living in the Midwest (due to their freedoms). Sure, only a few thousand people out of populations of millions turned out to protest this goofy anti-Muhammad movie from YouTube, and sure, there was loud outcry against the violence across the Muslim world. But have you seen this photo? Those guys are mad.
It’s hard to find a better image than the one on the Newsweek cover to really communicate how rage-filled Muslims constantly are, but we’ve found a few that will strike a chill into your heart:
#1 Check out these violent, angry Egyptians:
#2 Two furious Iraqis:
#3 Iranian Muslims #snowrage:
#4 This Egyptian guy is filled to the brim with #MuslimRage:
#5 A group of Egyptians gather in Cairo to vent their rage:
#6 A wrathful Jordanian girl:
#7 Insane #MuslimRage:
#8 Terrifying image of violent, rampaging Iraqis:
#9 How can we stop #MuslimRage like this, from Iran?
#10 Look at this enraged Iraqi and tell me you’re not scared:
#11 Irate Egyptians taking a break from their #MuslimRage:
#12 An Egyptian family, foaming at the mouth:
Loonwatchers share their own “very, very scary” photos of Muslim rage.
At a vigil to remember Ambassador Stevens last Friday in Cincinnati:
Actress Cindy Lee Garcia was deceived by Abenob Nakouly Bassely
CNN reports that the man behind the “Innocence of Muslims” movie is likely not an “Israeli real estate developer” by the name of Sam Bacile, but instead as some speculated an Egyptian Copt by the name Abenob Nakoula Bassely. I indicated in my feature that there were doubts about who Bacile actually was and also updated the story reflecting that Israel has no knowledge of a citizen by the name of Sam Bacile.
Some time in the summer, a small theater in Los Angeles screened a movie to which hardly anyone came.
It was a clunky film filled with scenes in a desert and in tents. The characters were cartoonish; the dialogue gauche.
The actors who’d responded to a July 2011 casting call thought they were making an adventure film set 2,000 years ago called “Desert Warrior.” That’s how Backstage magazine and other acting publications described it.
The American-made movie, it turns out, was hardly an innocent Arabian Desert action flick.
Instead, the movie, backed by hardcore anti-Islam groups in the United States, is a tome on Islam as fraud. In trailers posted on YouTube in July, viewers saw this: scene after scene of the Prophet Mohammed portrayed as a womanizer, buffoon, ruthless killer and child molester.
Islam forbids all depictions of Mohammed, let alone insulting ones.
But as outrage spread, the film’s origins still remained murky. Whose idea was it? Who financed it?
At the heart of the mystery was the filmmaker himself, a man identified in the casting call as Sam Bassiel, on the call sheet as Sam Bassil and reported at first by news outlets as Sam Bacile.
By Thursday, as new details emerged, it was becoming apparent that Bacile was probably not the producer’s real name.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the filmmaker identified himself as Sam Bacile and said he was a 52-year-old Israeli-American real estate developer from California.
But Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there was no record of a Sam Bacile with Israeli citizenship.
“This guy is totally anonymous. At this point, no one can confirm he holds Israeli citizenship, and even if he did we are not involved,” ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said.
CNN has been unable to contact anyone named Sam Bacile and cannot verify the information reported in the Journal.
A search by CNN of public records related to Bacile came up empty. A search of entertainment records turned up no previous mention of a Sam Bacile, and the directors and writers guilds had no listing for him.
A production staff member who worked on the film in its initial stages told CNN that an entirely different name was filed on the paperwork for the Screen Actors Guild: Abenob Nakoula Bassely.
He believed the filmmaker was a Coptic Christian and when the two spoke on the phone during production, the filmmaker said he was in Alexandria, Egypt, raising money for the film. There has been a long history of animosity between Muslims and the minority Copts in Egypt.
Another staffer who worked on the film said he knew the producer as Sam Bassil. That’s how he signed a personal check to pay staff.
The staffer said he was “99% positive” that Sam Bassil was not Jewish. He had quite a few religious pieces in his house, including images of the Madonna.
He was married with two children — the daughter helped during production and even brought in lunch on a few occasions, the staffer said.
Neither staffer wanted to be identified for security reasons.
In his interview with the Wall Street Journal, the filmmaker characterized his movie, now called “Innocence of Muslims,” as “a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam.”
“Islam is a cancer,” he said. “The movie is a political movie. It’s not a religious movie.”
An actress in the film, who asked not to be identified, told CNN that the original script did not include a Prophet Mohammed character. She said she and other actors complained that their lines had been changed.
She said she spoke Wednesday with the producer.
“He said he wrote the script because he wants the Muslims to quit killing,” she said. “I had no idea he was doing all this.”
She described the movie’s repercussions as a “nightmare,” given the outrage and deaths, and she regretted having a role. She said she was angry and hurt by the lies.
The 79 other cast and crew members said they were “grossly misled” about the film’s intent.
“The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer,” they said in a statement.
They said they were “shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.”
The actress said that the character of Mohammed in the movie was named George when it was shot, and that after production wrapped she returned and read other lines that may have been dubbed into the piece.
A member of the production staff who worked on the film and has a copy of the original script corroborated the woman’s account. There was no mention of Mohammed or Islam, the crew member said.
The filmmaker told the Wall Street Journal that he was backed by Jewish donors, who contributed $5 million to make the film. Based on the trailer, however, the cartoonish movie appears to have been produced on a low budget.
Anti-Muslim activist Steve Klein, who said he was a script consultant for the movie, said the filmmaker told him his idea was to make a film that would reveal “facts, evidence and proof” about the Prophet Mohammed to people he perceived as radical Muslims.
Klein said the movie was called “Innocence of Bin Laden.”
“Our intent was to reach out to the small minority of very dangerous people in California and try to shock them into understanding how dangerous Islam is,” Klein said.
“We knew that it was going to cause some friction, if anybody paid attention to it,” he said.
But when Klein went to the screening in the Los Angeles theater, no one was there.
But a while later, the trailers were online. They were segments focusing on the Prophet Mohammed and posted under the title, “Innocence of Mohammed.”
The trailers were translated into Egyptian dialects of Arabic, the New York Times reported. Egyptian television aired certain segments.
And the fury erupted.
Klein told CNN Wednesday that Sam Bacile was in hiding.
“He’s very depressed, and he’s upset,” Klein said. “I talked to him this morning, and he said that he was very concerned for what happened to the ambassador.”
The Atlantic later quoted Klein as saying that Sam Bacile was a pseudonym. He said he did not know Bacile’s real name.
Klein is known in Southern California for his vocal opposition to the construction of a mosque in Temecula, southeast of Los Angeles, in 2010. He heads up Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment, a group that contends Islam is a threat to American freedom.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, says Klein, a former Marine and Vietnam veteran, helped train militant Christian fundamentalists prepare for war.
The movie got even more notice after it was promoted by anti-Islam activists, including Egyptian-born Coptic Christian Morris Sadek and Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose Quran-burning last year sparked deadly riots in Afghanistan.
Jones said he had been contacted to help distribute the film.
“The film is not intended to insult the Muslim community, but it is intended to reveal truths about Mohammed that are possibly not widely known,” Jones said in a statement.
“It is very clear that God did not influence him (Mohammed) in the writings of the Quran,” said Jones, who went on to blame Muslims’ fear of criticism for the protests, rather than the film.
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called Jones to ask him to withdraw his support for the film, said Col. David Lapan, Dempsey’s spokesman.
“Jones’ support of the film risks causing more violence and death,” Lapan said.
That fear mounted as anger raged in the Muslim world and especially as Friday, Islam’s day of religious observance, fast approached.
Protesters attacked the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Tuesday night and killed four Americans, including the US ambassador, Chris Stevens. The attacks were triggered by rage over an amateurish and deeply hateful film about Islam that depicted the Prophet Muhammad as, among other things, a child molester advocate, a bloodthirsty goon, a bumbling idiot, and a promiscuous, philandering leech. A 13-minute trailer was uploaded to YouTube and then quickly circulated in the Muslim world, sparking widespread anger (the US embassy in Cairo was also attacked).
The anti-Islam film was written, directed and produced by an Israeli real estate developer living in California, Sam Bacile. He claimed, in an interview with Haaretz, that the film “cost $5m to make and was financed with the help of more than 100 Jewish donors”. Its purpose, as described by the Israeli newspaper, was to show that “Islam is a cancer” and to provide a “provocative political statement condemning the religion”. It’s hard to believe that the film – which is barely at the level of a poorly rehearsed high-school play – required $5m to make, but the intent seems clear: to provoke Muslims into exactly the sort of violent rage that we are now witnessing.
Events like this one are difficult to write about when they first happen because the raw emotion they produce often makes rational discussion impossible. A script quickly emerges from which All Decent People must recite, and any deviations are quickly detected and denounced. But given the magnitude of this event and the important points it raises, it is nonetheless worthwhile to examine it:
2) Sam Bacile and his cowardly anonymous donors are repellent cretins for producing this bottom-feeding, bigoted, hateful “film” that has no apparent purpose but to spread anti-Islamic hatred and provoke violent reactions. But just as was true of the Qur’an burnings by Pastor Terry Jones (who, unsurprisingly, has a prominent role in promoting this film), or the Danish Muhammad cartoons before that, it is – and it should be – an absolute, unfettered free speech right to produce films no matter how offensive their content might be.
The US has steadily eroded free speech rights in the name of fighting terrorism by criminalizing pure political speech it deems dangerous and prosecuting Muslims who express those prohibited ideas. Attempts to constrain the rights of individuals to produce anti-Muslim films like the trash produced by Bacile and friends are just as dangerous and wrong as all other efforts to constrain free speech. Free speech is a vital liberty – arguably, the central one – and what it means, at its core, is that the right to express even the most repellent and inflammatory ideas is just as inviolable as the right to express inoffensive or conventional ones.
3) It is hard not to notice, and be disturbed by, the vastly different reactions whenever innocent Americans are killed, as opposed to when Americans are doing the killing of innocents. All the rage and denunciations of these murders in Benghazi are fully justified, but one wishes that even a fraction of that rage would be expressed when the US kills innocent men, women and children in the Muslim world, as it frequently does. Typically, though, those deaths are ignored, or at best justified with amoral bureaucratic phrases (“collateral damage”) or self-justifying cliches (“war is hell”), which Americans have been trained to recite.
It is understandable that the senseless killing of an ambassador is bigger news than the senseless killing of an unknown, obscure Yemeni or Pakistani child. But it’s anything but understandable to regard the former as more tragic than the latter. Yet there’s no denying that the same people today most vocally condemning the Benghazi killings are quick and eager to find justification when the killing of innocents is done by their government, rather than aimed at it.
It’s as though there are two types of crimes: killing, and then the killing of Americans. The way in which that latter phrase is so often invoked, with such intensity, emotion and scorn, reveals that it is viewed as the supreme crime: this is not just the tragic deaths of individuals, but a blow against the Empire; it therefore sparks particular offense. It is redolent of those in conquered lands being told they will be severely punished because they have raised their hand against a citizen of Rome.
Just compare the way in which the deaths of Americans on 9/11, even more than a decade later, are commemorated with borderline religious solemnity, as opposed to the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of foreign Muslims caused by the US, which are barely ever acknowledged. There is a clear hierarchy of human life being constantly reinforced by this mentality, and it is deeply consequential.
This is a vital process for enabling and justifying endless aggression. It is a way of dehumanizing those who are killed by the US while venerating American lives above all others. As the media watchdog group Media Lens put it today:
“A crucial task is to perceive how our compassion is channeled towards some and away from others. It’s the foundation of all mass violence.”
The death of Ambassador Stevens and the three Americans who died with him is as tragic as the constant killing of innocent people by the US, but not more so.
4) The two political parties in the US wasted no time in displaying their vulgar attributes by rushing to squeeze these events for political gain. Democratic partisans immediately announced that “exploiting US deaths” – by which they mean criticizing President Obama – “is ugly, unwise”.
That standard is as ludicrous as it is hypocritical. Democrats routinely “exploited US deaths” – in Iraq, Afghanistan, and from 9/11 – in order to attack President Bush and the Republican party, and they were perfectly within their rights to do so. When bad things happen involving US foreign policy, it is perfectly legitimate to speak out against the president and to identify his actions or inaction that one believes are to blame for those outcomes. These are political events, and they are inherently and necessarily “politicized”.
It’s one thing to object to specific criticisms of Obama here as illegitimate and ugly, as some of those criticisms undoubtedly were (see below). But trying to impose some sort of general prohibition on criticizing Obama – on the ground that Americans have died and this is a crisis – smacks of the worst debate-suppressing tactics of the GOP circa 2003. (To his credit, one of the Democrats making those claims today subsequently acknowledged his error and wrote: “Obviously there’s nothing wrong with criticizing the president, even during a crisis.”)
But in this case, what the GOP and Mitt Romney did is substantially worse. As the attacks unfolded, Romney quickly issued a statement, based on the response of the US embassy in Egypt, accusing Obama of “sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks” (the Obama White House repudiated the statement from the embassy in Cairo). The chairman of the GOP, Reince Preibus, unloaded on the world this disgusting tweet: “Obama sympathizes with attackers in Egypt. Sad and pathetic”.
These accusations were all pure fiction and self-evidently ugly; they prompted incredulous condemnations even from media figures who pride themselves on their own neutrality.
But this is the story of the GOP. Faced with a president whose record is inept and horrible in many key respects, they somehow find a way to be even more inept and horrible themselves. Here, they had a real political opportunity to attack Obama – if US diplomats are killed and embassies stormed, it makes the president appear weak and ineffectual – but they are so drowning in their own blinding extremism and hate-driven bile, so wedded to their tired and moronic political attacks (unpatriotic Democrats love America’s Muslim enemies!), that they cannot avoid instantly self-destructing. Within a matter of hours, they managed to turn a politically dangerous situation for Obama into yet more evidence of their unhinged, undisciplined radicalism.
5) Drawing conclusions about Libya, and the US intervention there, from this situation would be unfair and far too premature. This does, however, highlight the rampant violence, lawlessness, militia thuggery, and general instability that has plagued that country since Gadaffi’s removal from power. Moreover, given all the questions, largely ignored, about who it was exactly whom the US was arming and empowering in that country during the intervention, and what the unexpected consequences of doing that might be, it is vital to know how the attackers came into possession of rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weaponry.
This event also serves as a crucial reminder, yet again, that merely removing a heinous dictator is not proof that the intervention was successful, just or worthwhile. To assess that question, one must know what will follow in that country, for its people, once the intervening powers have removed the government. Declarations of victory and vindication over the intervention in Libya have always been premature, self-serving and baseless – precisely because that crucial fact is yet unknown. We can only hope that Tuesday’s events do not presage a depressing answer to that question.
In sum, one should by all means condemn and mourn the tragic deaths of these Americans in Benghazi. But the deaths would not be in vain if they caused us to pause and reflect much more than we normally do on the impact of the deaths of innocents which America itself routinely causes.
UPDATE: There are two developments in this story which, though they do not affect any of the observations I made, should be noted as they are at odds with some of the earlier reports: (1) although the Haaretz report was (and remains) quite definitive that the filmmaker is an Israeli named Sam Bacile, doubts have now been raised about the identity of the actual filmmaker, and (2) an anonymous US official claims that the attack was preplanned to coincide with 9/11, and the attackers exploited the protests over the film as a diversion. Neither of those claims is proven.
I disagree that America’s Islamophobia hurts only the US, but I understand the point the writer is trying to get at. America suffers greatly from the Islamophobia originating on its sure, especially in the eyes of the rest of the world, specifically Muslim majority nations.
How do Muslims in the rest of the world view the Islamophobic rhetoric coming out of America? The following article in Bikya Masr, a news source not known for its sympathetic view of the Muslim Brotherhood forwards one view from Egypt on “Muslim Brotherhood” conspiracies.
CAIRO: American Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann’s recent witch hunt against United States government officials and her accusations that they are part of a conspiracy including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood to infiltrate Washington in an effort to bring an Islamic state to the US could have dangerous affects for Egypt and the region.
Here in Egypt, the country has only recently elected a new president, hearkening in the democratic era. While not necessarily agreeable to all sides, all parties in the country believe that democracy is working, but Bachmann, many Egyptians argue, is dismissing this reality in her attacks against the Muslim Brotherhood.
“What we are seeing is a definite scary point in American politics,” began Egyptian writer and blogger Ahmed Hassan, who added that “while I am not a supporter of the Brotherhood, they are not who Bachmann is trying to show them as.”
The Minnesota Congresswoman has singled out Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as fellow Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison – the US government’s first elected Muslim official – as having ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and attempting to infiltrate the White House to push the Islamic group’s agenda.
Bachmann has leveled claims, but she has yet to substantiate her arguments, instead alluding to Abedin’s family being connected to “operatives” of the Brotherhood, continuing to assert that Abedin’s position “affords her routine access to the secretary and policymaking.”
While many have condemned her attacks, hearkening back to the 1960s when US Senator Joseph McCarthy also went on a similar witch hunt for Communists in the country, the reality is that Bachmann’s statements and assertions are far more dangerous for both American foreign policy and Egypt’s future.
Instead of creating a fearmongering campaign against all things Islam, Hassan and others believe Bachmann should be looking for ways to approach Egypt’s new President Mohamed Morsi, an American educated leader who was democratically elected to govern Egypt. The use of anti-Islamic attacks against the Brotherhood in Egypt, those on the ground here say, will only contribute to the ongoing mistrust between Arabs and Americans.
“We need to change how we speak about Islam and its groups. Not all groups are radical simply because they are Islamic,” the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) official Amr Darrag said. “The Brotherhood and the FJP are a democratically elected political party and all American government officials should respect that,” he added.
In Egypt, where fears of ultra-conservatism are taking hold and growing stronger by the day, Darrag believes that Bachmann’s attacks make it more difficult for the party to govern and work with the US on regional strategy, especially following the attack in Sinai that revealed a security vacuum that is likely to need an international response.
“Guilt by fantasy continues to be used by influential political and media figures to discredit American Muslim leaders as well as American Muslim institutions. These false accusations disregard Muslims’ contributions to American society and the democratic process,” wrote Arsalan Bukhari and John Albert for the Seattle Times.
That is the crux of the matter. Singling out Muslims within the US government needs to end, Egyptians believe. What they should replace it with, in both public speeches and in the media, “are honest and unbiased approaches to understanding the changes currently taking place in Egypt, where the Brotherhood, although conservative, is far from the ‘Islamist terrorists’ that Bachmann is alluding to,” said Hassan.
In another such lie, in June, Islamophobes started spreading a video titled: “Graphic video: Muslims slaughter Christian convert in moderate Tunisia”. I won’t post the video itself, as it is too gruesome, but the link is provided for whoever wishes to see it for themselves. This title when searched on Google produces 7,000 results. When one searches “beheading+Christian+Tunisia” or similar search terms one comes across more than 300,000 results.
The Anatomy of a Lie
The video of the beheading actually surfaced in May, not June, and was titled “‘Free Syrian Army’ Behead a Civilian.” For anyone who has knowledge of the region, the video is definitely not from Tunisia. As the original YouTube user who uploaded the video, TimeToFightBack1 wrote in an update to the video, “the dialect, the terrain and the clothing are all suggestive of Syria.” The murderers refer to their victim as “Rafidi” a demeaning term used exclusively to refer to Shias, and in the mouths of AlQaeda and their affiliate extremists is also usually accompanied by proclamations of being “renegades” and “apostates,” all the more to cheapen the life of their victims and to justify the spilling of their blood. (h/t: MAbdullah)
The perpetrators of this beheading were likely one of the AlQaeda linked or influenced groups who have infiltrated the Free Syrian Army or claim to be part of the Free Syrian Army (a very underreported and undocumented phenomenon in Western media).
The video failed to go viral in its original manifestation, perhaps because it doesn’t jibe with the prevailing narrative of a united, just, and Free Syrian Army fighting for democracy, rule of law and to overthrow the despotic Bashar al-Assad.
In early June, Egyptian T.V. (Masr al-Youm, “Egypt Today”) personality Tawfiq Okasha played part of the beheading video on his TV show. Okasha is well known for his over-the-top animosity and virulent disdain for Islamists, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. He described the beheading as happening in Tunisia, nowhere did he identify how he came to this conclusion, but in light of his political agenda it is clear why he would forward such a narrative.
Understanding the political context in Egypt gives us some clues. Okasha was using the video, in the lead up to the second round of Egyptian presidential elections to forward a fear-mongering premise to his Egyptian viewers, essentially telling them: look at what is happening in Tunisia as a result of the Islamist party of Rachid Al-Ghannouchi, ‘Al-Nahda’ having won elections, radicals are killing civilians and minorities. If the Muslim Brotherhood wins the upcoming presidential election you can expect the same thing in Egypt.” A few weeks after this aired, on June 24 Mohammed Morsi was declared president. Okasha recently announced the formation of a new political party, Egyptian National People’s Party, presenting himself as Egypt’s “champion against a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Raymond Ibrahim (the same individual who forwarded the Muslim Brotherhood Crucify Opponents hoax), a Coptic-American and long time writer on JihadWatch got a hold of the video, and the rest is history. The video that originally was posted in May as “Free Syrian Army Beheads a Civilian” had completely transformed into a viral news story in the looniverse, “Graphic Video: Muslims Behead Christian Convert in ‘Moderate’ Tunisia.”
One can easily discern the motive for such deception on the part of Islamophobes. The manipulated story validates, in one fell swoop, their prejudices against Islam, Muslims and the “Arab Spring,” while at the same time affirming for their audience the narratives of persecution of minorities (specifically Christians), the supposed “unique” violent nature of Islam, and most importantly the idea that changes being brought about by the Arab uprisings will not herald freedom, democracy, dignity, and rights (the slogans of Arab revolutionaries), but “radical Islam” a la the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
On its own the video is a potent reminder of violent fundamentalist extremism. The re-packaging and re-titling of the video is not only a detriment to factual news reporting and information gatherers, it is an insult to the memory of the poor Shia’ man who was murdered by these extremists.
The damage from this story has already been done, the looniverse has consumed it, reinforcing their own prejudices. It is hoped this article will go some way in dispelling the false re-packaging and re-titling of the video–and may the unnamed, murdered man rest in peace.
Lurid tales of the Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood allegedly “crucifying” President Mohammed Morsi’s political opponents has gone viral all across the looniverse, but skepticism seems to have surfaced in an unlikely place.
The American Thinker is not generally friendly to Muslims, and articles from notorious loons like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer routinely “grace” its pages, as evidenced by their respective archives here and here. Yet, despite the ridiculous assertion that rabid anti-Muslim bigot and serial fabricator Raymond Ibraham is “usually reliable,” the American Thinker indulged in a bit of fact checking and concluded the tale of crucifixion is, “at best, an exaggeration, and at worst, a hoax.”
At the time of this writing, Google searching the phrase, “Muslim Brotherhood crucifixion” in quotes yields 341,000 results. Despite this bout of ”lone wolf” fact checking by the American Thinker, this fabricated tale will no doubt be recycled endlessly, masquerading as “proof” of alleged Muslim depravity for months, or even years, to come.
This story is hard to believe but comes to us from multiple sources, including the usually reliable Ray Ibrahim. The problem is that the original report is from the Arab media. And while Ray, no doubt, faithfully translated the stories, there is no reliable source that could confirm the substance of the report.
However, it certainly is not beyond imagining that Salafists allied with the Muslim Brotherhood could have carried out such a barbaric act.
Last week in Egypt, when Muslim Brotherhood supporters terrorized the secular media, several Arabic websites-including Arab News, Al Khabar News, Dostor Watany, and Egypt Now-reported that people were being “crucified.” The relevant excerpt follows in translation:
A Sky News Arabic correspondent in Cairo confirmed that protestors belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others. Likewise, Muslim Brotherhood supporters locked the doors of the media production facilities of 6-October [a major media region in Cairo], where they proceeded to attack several popular journalists.
That there were attacks and violence-both in front of Egypt’s presidential palace and at major media facilities, is well-documented. An August 9 report by El Balad, a widely read Egyptian website, gives the details:
Last Wednesday, August 8, “thousands of the Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters” attacked 6-October’s media facilities, beat Khaled Salah-chief editor of the privately-owned and secular Youm 7 newspaper-prevented Yusif al-Hassani, an On TV broadcaster, from entering the building, and generally “terrorized the employees.”
El Balad adds that the supporters of Tawfik Okasha, another vocal critic of President Morsi-the one who widely disseminated the graphic video of a Muslim apostate being slaughtered to cries of “Allahu Akbar”-gathered around the presidential palace, only to be surrounded by Brotherhood supporters, who “attacked them with sticks, knives, and Molotov cocktails, crucifying some of them on trees, leading to the deaths of two and the wounding of dozens.”
“Crucified in front of the presidential palace?” One would imagine that something so barbaric done so openly would catch the attention of at least some western news outlets. Or even al-Jazeera, who would almost certainly report such an atrocity. They can’t all want to cover up for the Brotherhood. A story like this is just too juicy to pass up in the name of political correctness or ideology.
A check of the Sky News website shows no story about crucifixions.. In fact, there is no time or date of the crucifixions reported by Ray at all.
These are all red flags that makes me think that this widely disseminated story is, at best, an exaggeration, and at worst, a hoax…