24 September 2012
This isn't really a story about a trailer for a movie. It's a story about the use of religion as a violently divisive political tool.
The hate has a direction, and it has a political purpose, grander than a Youtube video.
Late at night on September 11, an apparent riot over a Youtube clip of a movie mocking the Islamic prophet Muhammad turned into a full-scale assault on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. By the time the night ended, four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chrisopher Stevens, lay dead.
It's easy to draft the narrative, 'Dumb Muslims freak out over dumb movie.' But there's a more complex narrative in these protests and all of them. Really, we're seeing a dangerous and all-too-frequent tactic by government and paramilitary groups: using people's most prized cultural beliefs about life and death and good and evil as a control and manipulation tactic. In these cases, hate has been fomented by agitators with distinct political purposes. The tool they used is an old one: religious belief.
Ansar al-Sharia is a militia with ties to former Libyan ruler Muammar Ghadafi. Its goal is to establish a government based in the political application of religious law.
It may have been wishful thinking on the part of the Muslims with whom Chris Stephen of the Guardian spoke, but the people who were there don't remember anything like a typical protest.  What they remember is a deliberate attack. Individuals carrying military-grade weaponry slipped through a mob creating chaos in order to assassinate an ambassador whose career ran parallel to the Libyan revolution to overthrow Ghadafi in 2011.
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