This article was originally published at the DailyWildcat.com and is re-posted here with permission.
Rage was in the air.
On television screens in coffee shops and households across Egypt, a video played that mocked the most revered man in Islamic culture, the Prophet Muhammad. Al-Nas, a TV station based in Cairo, broadcasted the clip to castigate the film’s producers. It didn’t take long to see a reaction.
Quickly, the scene shifted from a nation overcome by anger to protestors discharging anti-U.S. chants against a backdrop of torched American flags. From Morocco to Libya, all the way down to Indonesia, the Muslim world was set ablaze.
Islam prohibits depictions of the Prophet Muhammad as a preemptive measure against idolatry. “Innocence of Muslims,” the video mired in global controversy, is thought to be the work of an Egyptian-born man living in the U.S. The film was produced last year but only started making headlines after it surfaced on the Egyptian airwaves earlier this month.
“It’s been completely blown out of proportion,” said Leila Hudson, a University of Arizona associate professor of Middle East history and anthropology. “Those trying to provoke a Muslim response or the Islamic extremists who inflame the excitable segments of their parties are interested in the same thing: challenging the relationship between the United States and the new Arab governments.”
Presumably the most prominent victim thus far has been Christopher Stevens, the former U.S. Ambassador to Libya who was murdered at the consulate in Benghazi. In a statement, Libyan ambassador to the U.S. Ali Aujali condemned the violence and wrote that Stevens served “with great distinction and all Libyans owe him a debt of gratitude for his years of service in support of Libya.”
News outlets have reported that Al Qaida may have orchestrated the attacks, though a conclusive answer has yet to be drawn.
David Shellouff, a Muslim University of Arizona graduate student studying education whose family is from Benghazi, recalled his response to the news of Stevens’s death: “As an American I was upset, and as a Libyan I thought, ‘What a disgrace to our name,’” he said. “His death bothers me the most, second to that is Libya’s reputation being soiled. Before, people would tell me things like ‘Libyans are awesome! We hope you get freedom.’ Now, we’re just the country that killed the ambassador.”
In response to the murder, pro-American protests sprouted up across the country, as did Facebook pages like, “I am Libyan and I reject the killing of U.S Ambassador Chris Stevens.” One user wrote, “I apologize on behalf of my family, my friends for this shameful, unpardonable, and deeply insensitive event of a small group of criminals.”
Hudson, who also directs the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts, emphasized that the violent reactions were emanating from the fringes—not the majority—of Middle Eastern society.