Anti-Islam film sparks protests
A United States ambassador and three American citizens were killed by Muslim protesters and US embassies were attacked in Libya, Egypt and Yemen in a week in which the US marked the 11th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The ostensible reason for the Middle East violence is Muslim anger over a film made in the US and distributed on youtube which apparently mocks Muhammad, the founder of Islam. But US officials have speculated that the deadly attack on its Embassy in Libya could have been planned in advance to coincide with 9/11.
US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three other US citizens were killed after armed men believed to be Islamic extremists attacked the US embassy in Benghazi with guns and handmade bombs on Tuesday, the anniversary of 9/11. A second victim was identified as Sean Smith, employed as an information management officer. The identities of the other two victims have not been disclosed.
Earlier on Tuesday protesters at the US embassy in Cairo, Egypt tore down a US. flag that was flying in honour of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, although there has been no report of casualties there. The protesters replaced the US flag with black flags with Islamic emblems, and the words “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger” .
And in the latest attack, today, the US Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, was stormed by angry Muslim protesters who set cars on fire and burned a US flag and replaceed it with a black Islam banner that read “There is no God but Allah,” and pelted the compound with rocks. The mob was pushed back after police used tear gas and fired in the air to scare them away. So far, there have been no reports of casualties.
Human rights watchdog Open Doors USA has warned that the attacks that have taken place this week in Libya, Egypt and Yemen as a result of an anti-Islamic film, “Innocence of Muslims”, will lead to further marginalization of Christians in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
“[The violence] illustrates how hot the fuel is that one spark ignites it so suddenly,” Open Doors spokesman Michael Wood said in a statement emailed to The Christian Post.
“Innocence of Muslims,” was previewed online by controversial Florida Christian pastor Terry Jones on September 11 as a part of his annual “International Judge Mohammed Day.”
The 14-minute film was written and directed by Israeli-American filmmaker San Bacile, who is based in San Diego, Calif., and is reportedly in hiding. Bacile, 52, told the Wall Street Journal that “Islam is a cancer.”
“[…] it is the unpredictable momentum that suddenly creates a wave of protests and anger. Many of the Muslim fanatics link the U.S. with Christianity. So that puts believers in these hot spots such as Libya and Egypt directly in the line of fire,” Wood said, noting that only 10 per cent of Egypt’s population is Christian, while there also exists a very small community of Christians in Libya.
Wood concluded his statement by requesting prayers that the violence over the “Innocence of Muslims” film, deemed offensive by some Muslims, does not spread to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
The World Evangelical Alliance has also issued a statement encouraging Christians to stand with Muslims in discouraging both the violence and religious intolerance which have stemmed from the short film.
“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our Christian brothers and sisters in countries with Muslim majority populations in condemning both the video and the violence that has followed its publication,” the WEA said in a statement.
On Wednesday, US officials said the attack on the embassy in Libya might have been pre-planned.
“It bears the hallmarks of an organized attack,” said an anonymous US official, as reported by Reuters. A militant organization called Ansar al Sharia, which translates as “Supporters of Islamic Law,” is suspected of co-coordinating the attack, along with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, an organization linked with the larger terrorist group that was once led by Osama bin Laden.
The New York Times also suggested that the riots in Yemen began only hours after Abdul Majid al- Zandani, a Muslim cleric and one-time mentor of Osama bin Laden, called upon followers to emulate the protests in Libya and Egypt.
“The U.S. Embassy continues to recommend that US citizens avoid large gatherings. Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. US citizens in Yemen are urged to monitor local news reports and to plan their activities accordingly,” the US embassy in Yemen has warned.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama said that security would be tightened at all US locations around the world following the Middle East embassy attacks.