Further illustrating Middle Eastern instability, a U.S. ambassador and three other American citizens were killed at the hands of protestors enraged by a video mocking Islam’s prophet Muhammad during an attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya.
Following a low-budget video depicting Muhammad as a womanizer and child molester, riots continue to pop up around the region.
“There is a bit of a cultural divide between the United States and some of the countries where the protests are taking place,” said Dr. Chris McHorney, professor of political science and chair of the Department of History and Government. “In a lot of the countries where the protests are occurring, they don’t have the same level of religious freedom that we enjoy in the United States, so it’s hard for them to understand how the United States’ government would even allow such a video to be distributed.”
An apology was formally made by the U.S. government condemning the video but has created some concerns about free speech. However, a California supreme court judge ruled on Sept. 20 that the video could remain online.
“In my opinion (the apology) wasn’t even necessarily appro-priate because it was a private citizen,” McHorney said. “This was not an act warranted by the government. So, essentially, what we are doing is apologizing for a group producing a video.”
Elizabeth P. Dunckel, junior nursing major, spent five years in Cairo, Egypt, where her parents were working. While the video was not an official product of the U.S. government, she said its consequences only further damage the U.S.’s international reputation.
“Egyptians have never had a great view of Americans. When I lived there, they loved (Britney) Spears and Bill Clinton and hated George Bush,” Dunckel said. “Their views of Americans come purely from the media, which we all know is completely misconstrued. But because it is an Islamic country, they are going to most likely hate Americans because we are the enemy in what some are calling a war. Their hate for us has for sure grown.”
McHorney said that many of the countries that are part of the current religious uproar could be experiencing political growing pains following the Arab Spring that sparked some new democratic-style governments. Before the Arab Spring that began in late 2010, political and religious protests were not allowed in many Middle Eastern countries.
“So you have the Arab Spring where dictators in a number of these countries were overthrown after decades of rule,” McHorney said. “Now they are trying to deal with what comes with a democracy and the issue of speech and religion. How do you address freedom of the press and freedom of religion in a country where religion was restricted and freedom of the press was unknown until a year or two ago?”
The countries affected, such as Egypt, are still reeling under new government leaders and systems, Dunckel said.
“The (Muslim) Brotherhood is not good for the country, and it is becoming extremely difficult for Christians who had so much more freedom when Mubarak was president,” Dunckel said. “He, at least, kept peace in the country. The riots are really violent and keep a lot of people inside.”
In light of the riots and deaths, Google has restricted access to the video in certain countries but has yet to fully take it down, despite requests from U.S. officials to do so.
“(Google is) essentially re-sponding to the mob without any sort of legal reason to (do so), and that threatens free speech,” McHorney said.
The political science professor said he expects the current situation to die down, but for the instability of the region to remain.
For Egypt and other countries in the region, prayer is needed, Dunckel said.
“I hate not being in the country, but I know God is in control,” Dunckel said. “I pray for Egypt, and thankfully not only is that all I can do, but it is the most powerful thing to do. We are weak, and (God) is strong, so with much prayer Egypt can turn to the one true God once again.”