WashPost On Faith Contributor: It's 'Extreme' to Expect Extremist Muslims to Forsake Extremism

September 14th, 2012 12:18 PM

In a September 13 Washington Post On Faith blog post entitled "When free speech costs human life," Qasim Rashid of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA complained that it was "extreme" to expect Muslims in the Middle East to develop thicker skin and not riot every time someone halfway around the world makes a video or cartoon that offends their religious sensibilities:

[I]f you haven’t noticed a pattern, let me illustrate this sadistic re-run. First, anti-Islam propagandists create and promote anti-Islam propaganda under the guise of free speech—knowing it will incite extremists to violence. Second, extremists react to the propaganda, resulting in the deaths of innocent civilians including U.N. aid workers, American citizens, and what we often callously refer to as “collateral damage,”—i.e. innocent women and children. Third, anti-Islam propagandists sit safely in their abodes, thousands of miles away and innocently shrug, “Too bad. This offensive speech is my right.” Finally, Muslims worldwide are put on trial to again condemn the violence—failure to do so is perceived as implicit approval. Yet, Islam remains maligned and, most importantly, innocent people continue to suffer.

To think this vicious cycle can stop simply if extremists stop being extremists is an extreme view itself.

Rashid went on to insist that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens lost his life "because others valued their own right to speech more than they valued his right to live."

But as Bloomberg News reports, it looks quite likely that al Qaeda was behind the murder of Amb. Stevens:

The four-hour assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi may have been orchestrated by groups tied to al-Qaeda, lawmakers said as U.S. officials began to investigate the attack that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens.

The attack in Libya that also killed three other U.S. personnel bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda and may have been carried out to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S., said Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee.

The “military-style attack” on the consulate was “a planned, targeted event,” Rogers, a Michigan Republican, told reporters yesterday. Those who staged the “well-planned, well- coordinated” attack probably picked the timing of Sept. 11 “for a reason,” he said. “You can’t have this many coincidences on the same day.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Senate intelligence panel, also said the attack may have been premeditated.

It may have been the work of al-Qaeda because “the weapons were somewhat sophisticated, and they blew a hole in the building and started a big fire, and that’s how the ambassador died, in a fire,” Feinstein told CNN.

Nic Robertson of CNN similarly reported yesterday:

A pro-al Qaeda group responsible for a previous armed assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is the chief suspect in Tuesday's attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, sources tracking militant Islamist groups in eastern Libya say.

They also note that the attack immediately followed a call from al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri for revenge for the death in June of Abu Yahya al-Libi, a senior Libyan member of the terror group.

The group suspected to be behind the assault -- the Imprisoned Omar Abdul Rahman Brigades -- first surfaced in May when it claimed responsibility for an attack on the International Red Cross office in Benghazi. The following month the group claimed responsibility for detonating an explosive device outside the U.S. Consulate and later released a video of that attack.

Noman Benotman, once a leading member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and now based at the Quilliam Foundation in London told CNN, "An attack like this would likely have required preparation. This would not seem to be merely a protest which escalated."

"According to our sources, the attack was the work of roughly 20 militants, prepared for a military assault; it is rare that an RPG7 is present at a peaceful protest," Benotman said.

"According to our sources, the attack against the consulate had two waves. The first attack led to U.S. officials being evacuated from the consulate by Libyan security forces, only for the second wave to be launched against U.S. officials after they were kept in a secure location."

That analysis is supported by U.S. sources who say the attack on the consulate is believed to have been pre-planned. The sources say the attackers used the protest as a diversion to launch the attack, although the sources could not say if the attackers instigated the protest or merely took advantage of it.

This wasn't a freak occurrence because of a mob who got carried away with a protest. This was premeditated terroristic violence.

Not that that matters to the Post's On Faith section, which also published yesterday a piece by liberal Baptist minister C. Welton Gaddy  attacking Americans for insensitivity to Islam (emphases mine):

Violence and hatred cannot be the basis for dialogue between the U.S. and the Arab world. Improved relations will be difficult until that is understood. At the same time, the anti-Muslim bigotry that has become all too pervasive in the United States is only amplified when it reaches the rest of the world and runs the risk of being perceived as the view of all Americans. That misconception is then used by those who seek to target Americans as a means of stirring up hatred among their followers.

The producers of this hateful anti-Muslim film knew full well that it would provoke anger in Muslim community. Make no mistake about it; those that used this crude film to stoke the uprising also knew they were inflaming the passions on the street. It is the world we live in that anyone with a video camera, a Facebook page and some time can have as much impact as a broadcast network.

We saw what hate brought on Sept. 11, 2001 and we saw what hate looked like when Terry Jones threatened to burn a Koran last year. We saw what hate leads to with the shooting at the Sikh Gurdwarain Wisconsin earlier this year. And we saw the result of that hate with this week’s tragedy.

The hateful film used as justification – or cover – for this violence is of little relevance to the vast majority of Americans and certainly does not represent the views of the U.S. government. It is no excuse for this week’s violence, but Libya is a nation that is emerging from years of dictatorship where the mere existence of a film can be mistakenly understood to have the endorsement of the state in which it was created. Those responsible for these deaths must be brought to justice, and going forward, anger should be expressed through means that lead to productive dialogue not deaths

The next time we mark the anniversary of Sept. 11, I hope we are able to look back at the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and his colleagues as a turning point in our interactions with one another. In the meantime, we will do well to intensify our efforts to promote respect for religious freedom and strive for interreligious understanding every day, which will help create a new context for the inevitable misstatement or offensive remark that provides a framework within which the wrong quickly can be resolved.