The riots and wave of violence that engulfed the Arab world over the hate-filled video ‘Innocence of Muslims’ does not seem like they’re ending any time soon. Instead, the situation is deteriorating every passing hour.
US Embassies and consulates, as well embassies from other countries around the globe, are being stormed by angry mobs that have turned embassies into fortresses. With the anti-Islamic video once again fueling the sentiment of anti-Americanism all over the Arab world, there are a couple of lessons that can be derived from this entire episode of turmoil.
Here are four of such lessons:
a. Fall of dictatorship does not guarantee free societies
Attacks that took place on US embassy in Cairo and consulate in Libyan city of Benghazi are a comprehensible manifestation of a period in which we witness the legacy of tyranny and intolerance. The people involved in the protest are accustomed to thinking that a government has absolute control over its citizens – that the film cannot be produced without government approval. It will take time for them to understand that freedom is not just about majority rule.
b. Despite best efforts Obama’s Middle East strategy seems to be a ‘failure’
President Obama’s strategy towards Middle East was quite different from his predecessor George W Bush. He was certain that his sympathy for the aspirations of Muslim lands would helps him in repairing relations between America and the Islamic world. The removal of dictators like Hosni Mubarak and Muammar Gaddafi was indeed a landmark achievement, but since then much has not been going according to US expectation. Most prominent of which is the Muslim Brotherhood coming in power in Egypt. Since then, US strategies to maintain peace in the region have proved ineffective.
c. Embassy riots won’t stop
Newly elected and liberated governments in countries like Egypt and Libya need to remain popular to appeal for votes and remain in office. The easiest way to do this is to step aside and let protests and demonstrations against United States proceed unabated.
It is important to mention here that in some countries governments would encourage the rioters. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt did exactly that, as President Muhammad Morsy called for the prosecution by the US government of the filmmakers. After all, they do understand that capitalizing and periodic fueling of anti-American sentiment will help them in maintaining and strengthening their local power base.
d. Obama missed the opportunity to state the point of reality
The events in Benghazi provided President Obama with a golden opportunity to speak out on an important problem, the opportunity to make Muslims realize that it is not just its religion that deserves respect.
Muslims were rightfully outraged by the film and those who produced it, but the same respect is due to other religions as well. The point of reality is that when mobs attack Christians in Libya, foreign journalists or students are sexually harassed in Egypt and when mentally disabled children are arrested on charges of blasphemy in Pakistan, in too many corners of the Muslim world the silence is deafening.
The President had an opportunity, still has the opportunity, to call upon Muslim leaders and tell them that other religions and their followers deserve same respect that they expect for their own.