With the release of an American-created anti-Muslim video, anti-American riots have spread throughout the world.
Most recently, these riots have taken place in Libya, where civil disorder led to the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, Penn State World Campus student Sean Smith and two other American soldiers.
These casualties occurred when rioters attacked the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11 — after the video was posted to YouTube.
The video, titled “Innocence of Muslims,” depicts the life of Islam’s prophet Muhammad as an evil man who tortures and kills everyone who is not a Muslim.
In one scene, Muhammad is shown being chased by his wife and mistress for being in bed with another woman. Muhammad runs away saying, “I am late for the battle,” according to the video.
Nasser Weddady, director of Civil Rights Outreach for the American Islamic Congress, wrote in an email that Muslims believe the Muhammad is infallible.
Any Western representation of Muhammad is usually not done with respect, and Muslims see the cartoons or the recent video as inflammatory, he said.
“[Muhammad] is one of their holiest symbols being portrayed in a very denigrating manner,” Weddady wrote.
Penn State Political Science Professor James Binney said a Danish cartoon and the South Park show have caused anger because of their depiction of Muhammad.
The Danish paper “Jyllands-Postens” received threats for printing cartoons about Muhammad.
South Park decided to censor the body of the prophet Muhammad in 2010 after receiving threats from a Muslim group.
Recently, the French satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo,” which depicted Muhammad naked in cartoons, is said to have fueled protests after the video release.
There are reasons why many Middle Eastern countries are angry with the United States, Binney said. The United States supports Israel, which has always created friction, and many countries perceive our foreign policy as a double standard, he said.
“They are aware their countries are falling behind the rest of the world,” Binney said. “In a globalized world, they can see in other people’s living rooms and they can see they are falling behind.”
Binney said countries like Libya are striving for democracy, possibly. There are people protesting in favor of the United States, he said.
The attack on the United States embassy was launched by a terrorist group, which had planned it in advance and not by ordinary citizens. The global forces of democracy are on the move, and the Middle East has been lagging behind, Binney said.
“Some ask, ‘Is Islam incompatible with democracy?’ ” Binney said. “Well, no, it’s not. Turkey is a country that has a democracy and a high level of development.”
Joseph Wright, a professor of political science at Penn State, said the Libyan people are living in a political vacuum — some with weapons and some without.
The United States helped oust the government and these domestic groups are competing for political power, he said.
“Protests in Benghazi, [Libya] spoke out against the armed militias and some have even given up their arms,” Wright said. “The people didn’t want the militias to take control of the government.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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