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It all started with a low budget, poorly made YouTube video which pokes fun at the origins of Islam and portrays the prophet Mohammed as violent, blood thirsty and a paedophile. The trailer of ‘Innocence of Muslims’ has racked up around 5 million views alone and sparked a torrent of attacks on American embassies throughout the Middle East. And to prepare the viewer for the ignorant film which they are about to see, in light of the backlash of attacks, YouTube gives a simple warning that the footage may be viewed at the viewer’s discretion- and this warning doesn’t even feature on all clips of the video.
The anger generated from this video resulted in riots, protests and burnings of the American flag outside American embassies and establishments in Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria, France, Gaza, Iran, India, Tunisia, Lebanon, Sudan, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and others.
Even London saw approximately 1,000 people gather in protest outside the American Embassy over the controversial film.
In Egypt, 3,000 people scaled the walls of the American embassy in Cairo in 3 days of riots, leaving 224 people injured in the protests.
U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others were killed in Libya as the American embassy there came under siege from AK-47 fire and grenades. Ambassador Chris Stevens died of smoke inhalation in the safe room as the building around him was engulfed in flames. Unfortunately, these deaths were not isolated; a further 4 people were killed in Yemen and many more in nations across the Middle East.
In Lebanon’s capitol, even Colonel Sanders caught the retribution for the film with one establishment of the KFC franchise being attacked and burnt on September 11th, killing one person and injuring many others.
We are also reminded that it was only last year that Florida Pastor Terry Jones burnt a copy of the Quran in front of his congregation and the press, igniting outrage in the world’s media. This incident makes for another anti-Islamic clip to have reached YouTube, and this one carries no warning.
Is it any wonder then that America faces so much anti-American anger from the Middle East? Or can the media be partially blamed for the outpouring of radical action when the Middle East is portrayed to us in the West as a troubled land of fundamentalists; and America to the Middle East as war mongering busy bodies. If the world is only viewed through the eyes of stereotypes then this is the inevitable result.
The film was directed by one ‘Sam Bacile’ which is believed to be a pseudonym for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula- a 55 year old American- Egyptian. Last month he was held without bail for violation the probation of an existing federal offence. He has so far not be directly linked to or charged about the anti-Islamic film, but the evidence around him is mounting.
By Siobhán O’Sullivan
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham