I feel silly to follow up the last post, which was so frivolous, with a such serious one, but I feel compelled to speak out in light of all that's been going on and my perspective as someone a little closer to it all than my friends in the states. I'm not sure what kind of coverage it's been getting over there, and I;m certainly neither the most eloquent nor the most qualified person to write on this. If you want better analysis of the recent unrest and attacks surrounding American and European embassies in Tunisia, Libya, Sudan, Yemen and several others, I suggest al jazeera, BBC news, and particularly this post from RNS which very clearly debunks several misconceptions about the situation.
I don't want to talk about the "film," because that's not what it is---it's hateful propaganda created for the sole purpose of inducing ire. The more we analyze and sensationalize it, the more we're playing into the hands of the people who created it.
The spark itself is not what matters, what is matters is the fire that follows it. What truly has significance is the action we choose to take in response, be it the response of some extremist terrorists to kill and destroy or our response to that destruction, even just with the formation of stereotypes or predjudices. I want my friends back at home, my family members--the Americans who probably see these news reports as a blip a midst a sea of politicians all vying to give the catchiest sound bite about the "Arab Spring,"--to know that these extremists are not their country. I want them to know that, in the same way that the people who created this hate-speech in the first place are not America, the people storming the embassy in Tunis are not Tunisia.
Something my host family was discussing, as we watched the news unfold on Al Jazeera this evening, is that, yes, we all understand that the US has nothing to do with some video on youtube; my family and I are well-educated, Oman is well-educated, Oman hasn't been struggling under a repressive regime for the past four decades. My host Dad points out that half these guys protesting in Sudan don't even watch youtube. Many are just following the crowd, many angry at their own government, many unemployed. As educated people, we need to resist the easy route of generalizing and blaming everything on one cause or one people.
As onlookers, it's paramount we remember that "Truth resists complexity." When you delve into the reports on these riots, you see that even those protesting are not homogeneous; in many cases protests are or begin as peaceful and separate factions are responsible for the violence. Particularly in the instance of the murders in Libya, it is widely speculated that these were not spontaneous acts in response to outrage, but rather planned terrorism with likely links to Al Qaeda.
What I want people to know is this: in the same way that the KKK and Westboro "baptist church" are not Christianity, the people inciting this violence are not Islam. It's a message that needs spreading even outside the context of recent events. I speak to my own experiences and knowledge of America, to the comments and articles I have seen regarding the aforementioned events, when I say that, as a country, we desperately need to have more complex, more diverse, more middle-ground picture of Muslims. Those who sensationalize minority factions and hold stereotypes based on the actions of extremists, forfeit their right to take part in rational dialogue, no matter what side they are on.