The Tragic Consequences of Extremism - updated 9/17

Sheila Musaji

Posted Sep 14, 2012      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
Bookmark and Share

The Tragic Consequences of Extremism

by Sheila Musaji

The LA Times reports that

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were reported killed as a mob sacked the U.S. Consulate in eastern Libya in a rage over an anti-Muslim video produced in the United States, according the State Department.

Early Wednesday morning, President Obama released a statement: “I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.”  Obama concluded his statement saying, “The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward.”

Wanis al-Sharif, Libya’s deputy minister of the interior, told the Associated Press that Stevens and three others had died as the crowd torched the consulate in Benghazi hours after demonstrators scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo in protest over the anti-Muslim video. A Twitter message from Libya’s deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abu Shagur, condemned the death of Stevens and the other American personnel killed in the attack.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the attacks but said in a statement that “inflammatory material posted on the Internet” is not a justification for “violent acts of this kind.”  “The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” she said. “Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

The reports being published around the world on this tragic murder, and the events leading up to it are contradictory at this time.  We know that an anti-Muslim film appears to have been the spark that set off this violence.  We know that an American Ambassador and three staffers were killed in a criminal attack on the U.S. Embassy in Libya and the Embassy in Cairo was stormed and the U.S flag torn down and replaced by a flag often used by Al Qaeda.  Among the many confusing aspects to this story is that there seem to be two separate videos, the one produced by Sam Bacile, and another that has been claimed to be connected to Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian.

NOTE:  See Extremist Christians Produce Anti-Muslim Film Blame Jews for a summary of what we know about this film and its’ producers so far.  Most of the information about the film contained in this lengthy article is summarized there.


Muslims and Muslim organizations have condemned the actions of the extremists in Libya and Egypt.  See the collection of statements here.  They have expressed their sadness for the loss of innocent life.  There is no “appropriate” target for terrorist acts.  Attacking any diplomatic embassy is a criminal act.  The murder of the Ambassador and embassy staff was inexcusable. 

What adds yet another level of tragedy to all of this is that as Aref Nayed, Former Ambassador of Libya to the UAE, Member of the League of Libyan Ulema said in a statement:

This is to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends of the late Ambassador Christopher Stevens and his fallen colleagues, and to the American people and government. I had the honor of personally knowing Ambassador Stevens, and witnessed, firsthand, in Benghazi and later in Tripoli, the care and hard work that he devoted to fulfilling his duties towards his country and towards Libya and the Libyan people. He was a man of dedication and honor, and I am shocked and deeply anguished for the loss of a dear friend and supporter of the Libyan people’s struggle against tyranny. Tyranny and darkness may wear a thousand guises, including pseudo-religiosity, but must never deceive us. Islam is a religion of peace and understanding, and Islam’s Prophet (peace be upon him) is the Prophet of Compassion. It is outrageous and totally unacceptable for criminals to kill and destroy in the name of defending Islam and its Prophet (peace be upon him). The criminals who committed this cowardly act must be rigorously pursued and rapidly brought to justice. May this tragic loss make us even more dedicated and determined to building our respective countries, based on the values of dialogue, understanding, and peace.

And, as Shahed Amanullah of Generation Change posted on FaceBook:

“I am saddened by the death of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues in Libya overnight. He (like many others I’ve met) cared deeply about serving his country as well as the people he reached out to. Take a look at this video to see what kind of a public servant he was. He was very supportive of our outreach efforts to young leaders in Libya and was preparing for a launch of our Generation Change program there next month. I last saw him at his swearing-in a few months ago - he was so excited to return to Libya (he helped the opposition during the transition) to help the country rebuild.  Video://  Introducing U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens


All of this anger, violence, sectarian hatred, and suffering was stirred up by a combination of extremist efforts.  Based on what was initially reported, it seemed that a group of extremist Jews produced and distributed a hateful film insulting Islam, Muslims, and the Prophet Muhammad to further their pro-Zionist agenda. This was FALSE, it was extremist Christians  Muslim religious extremists drew attention to the film to further their own agenda.  Extremist Christians promoted the film and held a “trial of Prophet Muhammad” event to gain publicity for themselves.  Egyptian political extremists used the film to stir up the masses to promote their political agenda.  The extremist political organization Al Qaeda used the film as further proof of their propaganda effort to say that the U.S. is at war with all Muslims to gain support for their cause.  And, all of these extremists succeeded in provoking ignorant or extremist Muslims into carrying out acts of terrorism (hirabah).  Update: Al Qaeda, or one of their affiliates actually seems to have been the perpetrator of the attack on the Libyan Embassy

The only figure that I know of in the Torah, the New Testament, or the Qur’an, who would be honored by the actions of any of these extremists is Satan. 

These religious and political extremists use religion as a cover to attempt to justify actions that can only be called evil.  They want to provoke a reaction, as it feeds into their narratives, or they believe they can use the suffering of others to aid their own political cause.  All of the extremists have more in common with each other than they do with the majority of decent people of their faith.  Their actions bring disgrace on other members of the faiths they claim, and they bring nothing but more hatred, chaos, and suffering to the rest of the world.  The extremists on all sides feed off of each others hatred and continually escalate the rhetoric and the violence.  Somehow, the voices of moderation must come to the fore.

As Paul Brandeis Raushenbush said It is well known that within the Muslim world there are extremists and fanatics who can be provoked and incited by irresponsible media and self-serving religious leaders. We have seen this before. Terry Jones burns the Quran and the results were riots in Afganistan and the loss of more life.  This is not excusing the deadly response to the film—it is inexcusable. Violent reactions to any kind of art or thought, no matter how lame, are disgusting and unacceptable in decent society.  Yet creating a film such as “Innocence of Muslims” is akin to shouting fire in the movie theatre. Sam Bacile and his Islamohating cohorts appear to have created a symbiotic relationship with the violent Muslim extremists—each give the other a sense of self-righteousness and victimhood with a perfect circle of destruction. Bacile and his film are part of the problem, not the solution. His actions have put America and Americans in danger, and his film should be condemned for its bigotry and irresponsibility.

Here are key articles and passages from those articles about what is being reported to date about this entire incident in the order the events were reported:


The Globe and Mail reported

The low-budget movie, “Innocence of Muslims” in which actors have strong American accents, portrays Muslims as immoral and gratuitously violent.  It pokes fun at the Prophet Mohammed and touches on themes of paedophilia and homosexuality, sparking protests in Egypt and violence in Libya that left America’s ambassador Chris Stevens and three American officials dead.

The film was produced by Israeli-American Sam Bacile, according to the Wall Street Journal, but Egyptian media say that some Egyptian Copts living in the US were involved in the production.  On Wednesday, an Egyptian journalist filed a lawsuit against the producers of the film for “offence to Islam” and has called on authorities to strip the Egyptian Copts involved in the production of their nationality.

Mr. Bacile, a 52-year-old real-estate developer from southern California says Islam is a hateful religion.  “Islam is a cancer,” Mr. Bacile told the Wall Street Journal of his crudely-produced film, which depicts the Prophet Mohammed variously sleeping with women, talking about killing children and referring to a donkey as “the first Muslim animal.”

With amateur costumes, a choppy script and fake backdrops, the film would hardly have been noticed some say, had it not been for its promotion by US pastor Terry Jones, who drew protests in the past for burning the Koran.  Mr. Bacile told the Journal he was responsible for the film—an excerpt of which has been viewable online since July—saying he had raised $5-million to make it from about 100 Jewish donors, whom he declined to identify.  He said he had worked with some 60 actors and 45 crew to make the two-hour movie in a three-month period last year in California. “The movie is a political movie. It’s not a religious movie,” he said.

USA Today has more on Bacile  “The filmmaker is in hiding.  “This is a political movie,” said Bacile. “The U.S. lost a lot of money and a lot of people in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we’re fighting with ideas.”  Bacile, a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew, said he believes the movie will help his native land by exposing Islam’s flaws to the world.”

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo released a statement after the Cairo demonstration and prior to the tragic events in Libya in which the Ambassador and staff members were murdered:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

  After the murder of the Ambassador a much stronger statement condemning the actions of the perpetrators was released by Hillary Clinton.

The Mercury News reported that

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, trying to score political points from an attack on American diplomatic posts, branded as “disgraceful” a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that condemned the insulting Muhammad video. “It’s disgraceful that the Obama administration’s first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks,” Romney said. The embassy’s statement, issued hours before it was learned than the American ambassador to Libya had died, condemned “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.” Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt wrote in response to Romney’s statement: “We are shocked that, at a time when the United States of America is confronting the tragic death of one of our diplomatic officers in Libya, Gov. Romney would choose to launch a political attack.”

Andrew Brown at the Guardian wrote in detail about his viewing of the 13 minutes of clips from the film on YouTube, and then said

This is only 13 minutes. It’s hard to imagine the full two hours. The way I have told it may provoke incredulous giggles, but there is an element of intended nastiness in it that dries up laughter.  Some people will want to defend the film as critical of an idea, or of a belief. But I don’t think that will do. No Muslim could think of Muhammad as he is portrayed in the film, and very few can suppose that Islam commands them to behave the way the Muslims in the film do. The beliefs criticised are entirely imaginary. If any other group but Muslims were the target this would be obvious at once.  This film is purely and simply an incitement to religious hatred. It stokes hatred in both of its intended audiences – Christians and Jews in the US, and Muslims in the wider world. If jihadi videos are banned in this country, and their distributors prosecuted, the same should be true of this film and for the same reasons.

Max Fisher’s Atlantic article includes a link to the trailer of the film that sparked these tragic incidents.  Fisher says:

...  Obviously, there’s a lot to this story that’s still unclear. What we do know is that some members of Egypt’s sometimes-raucous, often rumor-heavy media have been playing highly offensive clips from the highly offensive film, stressing its U.S. and Coptic connections. In the clip below, controversial TV host Sheikh Khaled Abdallah (known for such statements as “Iran is more dangerous to us than the Jews” and that Tehran had engineered a deadly soccer riot in Port Said) hypes the film as an American-Coptic plot and introduces what he says is its opening scene.  ...  What exactly does the film say? It’s still not clear, but it appears to compare Mohammed to a goat and Muslims, according to one translation, to “child-lovers.” The New York Times’ Liam Stack, offering some offhand translations of the scene shown above, called it a “doozy.” The man in the scene says of his donkey, “This is the first Muslim animal.” He asks the goat if it likes girls; when it doesn’t answer, he bursts into laughter and says, “He doesn’t like girls,” according to Stack. Other scenes in the above clip seem to portray Muslim Egyptian characters, who for some reason all have strong New York accents, as immoral and violent, particularly toward the Christians whom they pursue with near-genocidal fervor. A number of Islam’s founding figures, including the prophet, are accused of homosexuality and child molestation.

The Turkish Weekly reports:

The violence in Benghazi followed protests in neighboring Egypt where protesters scaled the walls of the Cairo embassy and tore down the American flag and burned it during protests over what demonstrators said was a US film that insulted the Prophet Mohammed.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s prestigious Al-Azhar mosque and seat of Sunni learning condemned a symbolic “trial” of the Prophet organized by a US group including Terry Jones, a Christian pastor who triggered riots in Afghanistan in 2010 by threatening to burn the Koran.  But it was not immediately clear whether it was the event sponsored by Jones, or another, possibly related, anti-Islam production, that prompted the melee at the US Embassy in Egypt, and possibly the violence in Libya.

San Francisco Gate reports that:  An anti-Islamic movie whose screening triggered protests and attacks on U.S. missions in Egypt and Libya that resulted in the death of an American, was an attempt to stoke sectarian tensions in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm said in a statement.  The Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood’s political wing, “strongly condemned” what it said was a movie produced by U.S.-based Coptic Christians, dubbing it a “racist crime and a failed attempt to provoke sectarian strife between the two elements of the nation, Muslims and Christians,” according to a statement posted on the party’s website.

Sam Kiley reports on the film

If there was ever a propaganda product designed to enrage and incite violence it is The Innocence of Muslims.  A mere 14 minutes of the two-hour film produced by an Israeli-American has already provoked riots in Egypt, and an armed attack on the American consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.  ...  A trailer posted on the internet on Tuesday reveals a crass, violent, amateurish and vindictive attack on the Prophet Mohammed.  He is portrayed as a pervert, d