On the 11th of September, while we here in the United States were remembering the attacks from 11-years ago, another situation erupted in two different nations half a world away. Protests began in Egypt and in Libya. Both had to do with the same thing... a movie made by someone here in the United States, whom we don't know the identity as of yet, depicting the prophet Mohammad which is sacrilegious in the Muslim world. In Cairo, Egypt, they stormed the US Embassy and took down the American flag. In Benghazi, protesters marched outside the American consulate. Everything seemed fine there, until a small group of armed militants took over the protest and stormed the consulate and setting fire to it. This attack would end up killing four people... including the new American ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.
As some Americans are now ready to fall back on basic stereotypes on all Muslims, another side this story developed in Libya. The very next day, the people came out and marched again. But this time it was a sign of solidarity with the United States... to show us that they stood with us in our grief over Ambassador Christopher Stevens, who was someone they liked and admired. After the attack on the consulate, it was the Libyan people who had carried Ambassador Stevens to the hospital in an effort to save him. They might be upset over this so-called internet movie, but they also realized that there is a line between a civil protest and an act of terrorism. As they took to the streets to show their support for us, they held us signs that read that the extremists didn't speak for the people of Libya and they condemned the violence. (slideshow) The people of Libya realize that the United States helped to play a crucial role in their fight for freedom against an authoritarian regime, and they have not forgotten. And we should not forget that there is a difference between the average citizen and the extremists.
My father and I have often had conversations that have centered around this part of the world. We don't tend to see eye-to-eye exactly, but I guess that is a generational difference. In our discussions though, as we go back and forth between the moderates and the extremists, he usually points out that the moderates need to voice up so that they can be separated from the extremists. I point out, after watching an open forum with faith and the Muslim community, that when the moderates do raise their voices so that they can be heard over the extremists, we are quick to place the extremist stamp on them, as well. In this instance, however, the moderates made sure their voices were heard... to make sure that we here in the US knew that the extremists (those that carried out this horrible attack) did not speak for them and that they held our ambassador and our nation in great esteem... that they hadn't forgotten the help that we had given them. These were the voices that needed to be heard. What started out as a protest against us could end up bringing us closer together.
Protests will continue throughout Muslim nations, and our embassies are on high alert. Even now, Egyptian security forces are clashing with protesters outside the US Embassy in Cairo. As much as we demonize the people for protesting the United States and even burning the American flag (and even voicing "death to America"), they are practicing a basic right that we tend to take for granted in our country... the right to assemble and the freedom of speech. It does't necessarily mean that we will like what they have to say though. But that also doesn't mean that they have a right to violence against anyone... including our own people. We must make sure that we have the right to defend our people when they get in harm's way. But their people also need to realize that just because someone in the US makes a movie denouncing their religion, it doesn't mean that we all do. The person who made this film is the only person the film represents. For those of us who are logical, rational Americans, this film comes no where close to representing who we are and what we believe. And yes, there are those in our own country who would turn to violence if the situation was reversed, so we shouldn't start acting all high and mighty either.
As the flames continue to burn, let us all stop for a moment and allow logical thought to sink in. Americans do not hate Muslims. The people of Libya have shown their true colors by denouncing the terrorism and siding with the US. A small group of extremists should not allow us to fall back on stereotypes... nor does it give us permission to do so. This goes for our elected leaders and for us average citizens. Knee-jerk reactions will get us no where. Statesmanship is an art form and not a game of chess.
The person who made this movie that sparked this fire had to know what he/she was doing and what the consequences of those actions would be. We had seen it before when a Dutch newspaper printed a caricature of the prophet Mohammad. Though we practice freedom of speech, we need to also think of the ramifications of such speech in today's technological world. We must all learn to respect one another... and respect our right to speech and protest. But we must not allow violence and terrorism to seep into our society. The people of Libya are making that known to us and the world that the terrorists will not represent them or their nation, and that should be commended. Events are still unfolding even as I write this, but I hope that with the passage of time that this fire will die away along with this "so-called" film that sparked it all. If the creator feels the need to remain in secret, then we have no need to remember it. What we shall do is continue the work in Libya that Ambassador Stevens had started and show that we, too, are better than just reactionary thoughts.
Did the US Embassy in Cairo Make An Apology? - Politifact