By Glenn Greenwald
One prominent strain shaping American reaction to the protests in the Muslim world is bafflement, and even anger, that those Muslims are not more grateful to the US. After all, goes this thinking, the US bestowed them with the gifts of freedom and democracy – the very rights they are now exercising – so how could they possibly be anything other than thankful? Under this worldview, it is especially confounding that the US, their savior and freedom-provider, would be the target of their rage.
On Wednesday, USA Today published an article with the headline “After attacks in Egypt and Libya, USA Today asks: Why?” The paper appeared to tell its readers that it was the US that freed the Egyptian people from tyranny: “Attacks in Libya that left four US diplomats dead – including Ambassador Christopher Stevens – and a mob invasion of the US Embassy in Cairo, in which the US flag was torn to shreds, have left many to wonder: How can people the USA helped free from murderous dictators treat it in such a way?”
Did you know that the “USA helped free” Egyptians from their murderous dictator? On Thursday night, NBC News published a nine-minute report on Brian Williams’ “Rock Center” program featuring its foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, reporting on the demonstrations in Cairo, which sounded exactly the same theme. Standing in front of protesting Egyptians in Tahrir Square, Engel informed viewers that this was all so very baffling because it was taking place “in Cairo, where the US turned its back on its old friend Hosni Mubarak”, and then added: “It is somewhat ironic with American diplomats inside the embassy who helped to give these demonstrators, these protesters, a voice, and allowed them to actually carry out these anti-American clashes that we’re seeing right now.”
That it was the US who freed Egyptians and “allowed them” the right to protest would undoubtedly come as a great surprise to many Egyptians. That is the case even beyond the decades of arming, funding and general support from the US for their hated dictator (to his credit, Engel including a snippet of an interview with Tariq Ramadan pointing out that the US long supported the region’s dictators).
Beyond the long-term US support for Mubarak, Egyptians would likely find it difficult to reconcile Engel’s claim that the US freed them with the “made in USA” logos on the tear gas cannisters used against them by Mubarak’s security forces; or with Hillary Clinton’s touching 2009 declaration that “I really consider President and Mrs Mubarak to be friends of my family”; or with Obama’s support for Mubarak up until the very last minute when his downfall became inevitable; or with the fact that the Obama administration plan was to engineer the ascension of the loathed, US-loyal torturer Omar Suleiman as Mubarak’s replacement in the name of “stability”.
Given the history of the US in Egypt, both long-term and very recent, it takes an extraordinary degree of self-delusion and propaganda to depict Egyptian anger toward the US as “ironic” on the ground that it was the US who freed them and “allowed” them the right to protest. But that is precisely the theme being propagated by most US media outlets.
Even in Libya, where it’s certainly true that many Libyans are happy about the Nato intervention, this bafflement is misplaced. It’s always the case that some portion of the populace of an invaded nation will be happy about even the most unjustified invasions: that the Kurds are thrilled by the Iraq war is a fact still cited by Iraq war advocates as proof of the war’s justness and wisdom.
But it’s also the case that such invasions produce extreme anger, as well: among the families of those killed by the invading forces, or who suffer from the resulting lawlessness and instability. Combine that with the fact that it was repeatedly noted that US involvement in Libya meant that anti-US extremists, including al-Qaida, were being armed and empowered by the US, it is far from mystifying, as Secretary Clinton insisted, that some people in Libya are deeply hostile to the US and want to do it harm.
In the same report, Engel also spent several moments explaining that the primary reason these Muslims have such animosity toward the US is because their heads have been filled for years with crazy conspiracy theories about how the US and Israel are responsible for their woes. These conspiracies, he said, were fed to them by their dictators to distract attention from their own corruption.
Let’s leave aside the irony of the American media decrying crazy “conspiracy theories” in other countries, when it is the US that attacked another country based on nonexistent weapons and fabricated secret alliances with al-Qaida. One should acknowledge that there is some truth to Engel’s claim that the region’s tyrants fueled citizen rage toward the US and Israel as a means of distracting from their own failings and corruption.
But to act as though Muslim anger toward the US and Israel is primarily the by-product of crazy conspiracy theories is itself a crazy conspiracy theory. It’s in the world of reality, not conspiracy, where the US and Israel have continuously brought extreme amounts of violence to the Muslim world, routinely killing their innocent men, women and children. Listening to Engel, one would never know about tiny little matters like the bombing of Gaza and Lebanon, the almost five-decade long oppression of Palestinians, the widely hated, child-killing drone campaign, or the attack on Iraq.
And it’s in the world of reality, not conspiracy, where the US really has continuously interfered in their countries’ governance by propping up and supporting their dictators. Intense Muslim animosity toward the US, including in Egypt, long pre-dates this film, and the reasons aren’t hard to discern. That’s precisely why the US supported tyranny in these countries for so long: to ensure that the citizens’ views, so contrary to US policy, would be suppressed and rendered irrelevant.
It doesn’t take a propagandized populace to be angry at the US for such actions. It takes a propagandized populace to be shocked at that anger and to view it with bafflement and resentment on the ground that they should, instead, be grateful because we “freed” them.
But to see why exactly such a propagandized populace exists in the US and has been led to believe such myth and conspiracies, simply read that USA Today article or watch the NBC News report on these protests as they convince Americans that gratitude, rather than resentment, should be the sentiment people in that region feel toward the US.
Nakoula, a California man convicted of bank fraud, is under investigation for possible probation violations [Reuters]
|After a film insulting the Prophet Muhammad triggered mass protests in Muslim-majority countries across North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has been transformed from a shadowy ex-convict into an international man of mystery.|
By Clara Chooi
September 18, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 18 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad suggested today that American mothers “sleep around with just about anybody” when he attacked the United States for defending free speech while PKR warned governments against exploiting Muslim anger to restrict freedoms as protests continued to spread across the Muslim world over a controversial film mocking the Prophet Muhammad.
Malaysia’s outspoken former prime minister said the West’s idea of freedom of expression as being a part of human rights was one that may not be accepted in the cultures of Asians or Muslims worldwide.
In contrast, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali said in a separate statement that “dictatorial regimes” should not exploit the anger of Muslims to curtail freedoms.
“Those who blame freedoms for the production of the film are leaders who are anti-democratic and anti-freedom of the people, and are exploiting the anger of the people to reduce democratic space for political purposes,” he said.
Dr Mahathir (picture) was unrelenting, however, in his attack against the US which has officially condemned the film.
“It would seem that the liberal West believes that free speech is licence to curse and insult other people without limit. I think Western values have gone crazy,” the now-retired Dr Mahathir wrote in his blog today.
“How would one feel if someone comes up to you and calls you ‘a bastard, the offspring of sex between your mother and some man who is not your legally wedded father’?”
“The Americans would feel nothing because in their society this is normal. Their mothers sleep around with just about anybody,” said the controversial political veteran.
Such a practice would be considered a norm in an American society, he said, adding that apart from American mothers, fathers behave much the same way.
“It is an expression of the equality of the sexes,” he said.
Dr Mahathir was railing against US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom he said had appeared to defend the maker of the film when the latter was quoted in the media as saying, “We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views, no matter how distasteful they may be.”
US embassies worldwide have been placed on high alert following protests against the controversial video, which have even led to the death of a US ambassador and three other Americans last week during a protest at its consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi.
Protests have spread to other countries across the Muslim world, and have also reached Malaysian shores, uniting Muslims here from across the political divide in their bid to express their unhappiness at the US for the film.
The youth wing of Malaysia’s largest Muslim party Umno will be organising a mass protest after Friday prayers this week, while last week’s global protests were also joined by Islamist party PAS.
In a statement here, PAS’s ally PKR said the film was likely made with the deliberate intention to destroy world peace and spread “Islamophobia” among the non-Muslims of the world.
“PKR urges the US to take full and immediate responsibility to condemn this criminal act and take proactive measures to maintain world peace and destroy this false perception against the Muslims,” said the party’s deputy president Azmin Ali today.
But noting that the anti-American anger in the Muslim world has continued unabated for days now, even resulting in protests leading to deaths, the lawmaker said he hoped there would not be any exploitation of Muslim anger over the matter.
The crudely made 13-minute English-language film, shot in California and circulated on the internet under several titles including “Innocence of Muslims”, mocks the Prophet Mohammad.
Clips of the film posted on the internet since July have been attributed to a man by the name of Sam Bacile, which two people linked to the film have said was likely an alias.
For many Muslims, any depiction of the Prophet is blasphemous. Caricatures deemed insulting in the past have provoked protests and drawn condemnations from officials, preachers, ordinary Muslims and many Christians.
Reuters news agency has reported that a California man convicted of bank fraud was taken in for questioning on Saturday by officers investigating possible probation violations stemming from the making of the video clip.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, voluntarily left his home in the early hours of Saturday morning for the meeting at a sheriff’s station in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos.
Nakoula, who has denied involvement in the film in a phone call to his Coptic Christian bishop, was ushered out of his home and into a waiting car by several sheriff’s deputies, his face shielded by a scarf, hat and sunglasses.
If free speech laws in the United States are to be altered, the Supreme Court would need to face public pressure [AFP]
|The tragic events of the past week have reminded us that freedom of speech can have deadly consequences. In the United States, many journalists, jurists, and academics believe that we must robustly defend freedom for the thought that we hate. This view is obviously not shared in most Muslim countries. But the current American stance on free speech is also not popular in other established liberal democracies, nor has it always been the prevailing wisdom in the United States. It is time to rethink the rationale behind America’s radical free speech absolutism that protects the promotion of hatred. |
Reacting to the slaughter of American representatives in Libya, Secretary of State Clinton asserted, “There are, of course, different views around the world about the outer limits of free speech and free expression, but there should be no debate about the simple proposition that violence in response to speech is not acceptable.” That is true. Yet pivoting toward an emphasis on violence downplays the fact that the United States stands virtually alone on the world stage in permitting speech that deliberately provokes hatred along racial, ethnic, or religious lines