Era of Unease: Renewed Terrorist Attacks?
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
September 14, 2012
Summary: The September 11 Attacks were indeed masterminded by Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. But not every Muslim is a terrorist. Radical Islam is a product of the late 20th century. This is something we must be clear about. Naturally we condemn the cruelty of genuine terrorist attacks carried out in the name of religion. But the response of some Americans is also questionable. The film "Innocence of the Muslim" was obviously a low budget video made by Americans ignorant about Islam.
Full Text below:
On the 11th anniversary of the September 11 Attacks, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya was attacked and killed by an assassin in the US Consulate in Benghazi, the largest city in the eastern part of the country. Three other U.S. diplomats also lost their lives. Angry mobs in Egypt gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. The American flag was being flown at half mast in memory of 9/11. The mob climbed over the fence, tore down the flag, and set it ablaze. Demonstrations broke out in front of the U.S. embassies in Yemen, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia. This series of events shocked the world. They feared a renewed wave of terrorist attacks.
Back in the US, the presidential election was entering its final stage. The two presidential candidates initially suspended campaign activities out of respect for the victims of 9/11. The candidates hoped that with Osama bin Laden's death, the nation could emerge from the shadow of the terrorist attacks. But these incidents forced them to respond. The American people feel that 9/11 is not something that will easily fade from memory. As election season approaches, politicians find it hard not to be swayed by public sentiment. Especially Obama, who has long been suspected of being a Muslim. His overreaction to events in Libya have increased public concerns.
The cause of these anti-American sentiments was a low budget, low quality American film slandering Muhammad and Islam. Just how should we view this tragedy?
First we offer our condolences to the US for US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens. Ambassador Stevens graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the Peace Corps and served in Morocco. He formed a bond with North Africa. During the Libyan Civil War he was a special envoy stationed in Benghazi. His actions led to US and UN intervention in Libya. They led to the eventual collapse of the 24 year regime of strongman Muammar Gaddafi. Because Stevens supported the rebels, the public in Benghazi waved the American flag. They considered Special Envoy Stevens a hero. This US diplomat helped the Benghazi rebels make a comeback. Alas, he lost his life in this city.
As representatives of a global hegemon, US embassies and US diplomats often become the target of terrorist attacks. They are often surrounded by angry mobs. In 1979, the U.S. Embassy in Iran was occupied by students and militants involved in the Iranian Revolution. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days. They were released only after President Reagan took office in 1981. On August 7, 1998, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were targets of simultaneous bomb attacks. A truck loaded with explosives was driven into the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. The explosion killed 213 people. Twelve of them were Americans. The rest were Kenyans who worked at the embassy or nearby residents. In addition, 4000 people were injured. An attack on Dar es Salaam, Tanzania killed 12 people and injured nearly 100. These brutal events forced the United States to increase security for its diplomatic facilities and personnel. But the isolation also created a negative impression of the United States among the public. It undermined the efforts of U.S. diplomats in the region. According to various reports, Stevens and the United States Consulate were highly vulnerable. Libya was not yet stable. This is an oversight that must be addressed.
The “Innocence of Muslims” is a film that Muslims feel desecrates their faith. Americans may consider the making of such a film an expression of freedom of speech. But it was disseminated by people with an agenda. This led to an highly emotional backlash. It became an excuse to attack the United States. This may have been the actions of an isolated individual. But the U.S. government and US diplomats must bear the consequences. This is a turbulent era. Those involved should think twice about what they are doing.
In recent years, the United States has repeatedly clashed with Islam. In 2005, U.S. troops at Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, flushed a copy of the Koran down the toilet. This of course was a desecration of Islam. But doubts have arisen concerning the authenticity of this incident. In 2010, a pastor in Florida named Terry Jones, announced a "Koran Burning Day" to commemorate 9/11. This aroused fierce protests in many parts of the Muslim world. Shortly after he held his 2010 Koran burning ceremony, an Afghan mob broke into the local office of the United Nations. This resulted in many deaths. In February this year, U.S. troops tried to prevent prisoners in Afghanistan from passing messages in loaned copies of the Koran. They piled copies of the Koran on the ground and set them ablaze. When news of the Koran burning broke, riots erupted and over 10 people were killed.
The September 11 Attacks were indeed masterminded by Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda. But not every Muslim is a terrorist. Radical Islam is a product of the late 20th century. This is something we must be clear about. Naturally we condemn the cruelty of genuine terrorist attacks carried out in the name of religion. But the response of some Americans is also questionable. The film "Innocence of the Muslim" was obviously a low budget video made by Americans ignorant about Islam. But the religious law message it disseminated did not come from the U.S. government. It came from individuals. We hope the Islamic world will make the proper distinctions, and not exact indiscriminate retribution. We hope they will not provide terrorists with a pretext for attacks, and make the entire world uneasy.