Rightwing fundamentalism took more victims yesterday when jihadists in Libya stormed the American consulate and killed U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and Sean Smith, who was providing tech support for the State Department, along with two other Americans.
The mob violence evidently was sparked by a rightwing anti-Islamic film by Israeli-American Sam Bacile, who told the AP, “Islam is a cancer, period.” The film was promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who gained notoriety for burning the Koran.
This is not the clash of civilizations. This is the clash of fundamentalisms.
And as University of Michigan professor Juan Cole notes, this was the work of a tiny group in Libya. “The vigilante fundamentalists typically reject elections and democracy, as inauthentic Western imports, and they are headline whores, plotting out attention-grabbing mob actions,” he wrote. Cole said the action in no way represents the start of a Libyan Winter. “Secular and nationalist Libyans have already announced a peaceful demonstration against the violence at Martyrs’ Square in Benghazi for Wednesday afternoon,” he writes at www.juancole.com.
President Obama was right to say, “Today, the American people stand united in holding the families of the four Americans we lost in our thoughts.”
And Mitt Romney disgraced himself by having his campaign send out a premature and immature and totally false statement that said, “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.”
As Juan Cole said, that statement was “unwise and risky, not to mention distasteful.”
A couple other points. I thought Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a moving and powerful statement this morning and was obviously “heartbroken,” as she said. She was right to say that this attack “should shock the conscience of people of all faiths.”
But at the risk of appearing distasteful myself, I have to take exception to her closing soaring oratory, where she talked about America being “the greatest force for peace, prosperity, and progress, and a force that has always stood for human dignity, the greatest force the world has ever seen.” The occasion is extenuating, but this kind of American chauvinism is neither healthy nor accurate.
One last point: I want to live in a world where anyone can mock any religion and put out any film on any subject without occasioning a murderous response.
Give me mockery, and don’t give me death.
Correction: In the original article, I relied upon the Associated Press when I identified the person behind the vid as as "Israeli-American Sam Bacile."
It came out later that the person behind it was actually Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, a Coptic Christian and an American citizen originally from Egypt.
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