On the second Friday since four Americans were killed in the US Consulate at Benghazi, two weeks since a virulently vapid video produced in the United States caught the attention of millions of Muslims, and on the first Friday since Parisian cartoonists insisted on their right to be provocative there were a range of reactions. Three caught my attention:
In Pakistan what the government had tried to orchestrate as peaceful protests spun out of control. According to DAWN:
Friday which was designated by the government to demonstrate love of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) and condemn the anti-Islam video produced in the US by some extremists was hijacked by our home-grown extremists who turned it into a day of unbridled violence, killings, arson and robbery.
At least 23 people were killed and over 200 injured and violence in some places continued till late in the night.
The internal security system virtually collapsed, giving way to tens of thousands of violent protesters to rule the streets in several cities, from Peshawar and Islamabad to Lahore and Karachi, burn down shops, cinema houses and police vehicles, and ransack whatever else that came in the way. (MORE)
In Lebanon thousands peacefully protested. According to The Daily Star:
Peaceful demonstrations took place throughout Lebanon Friday in protest of an anti-Islam film and a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad, amid strict security measures across the country.
France closed its embassy and consulate Friday, and many French schools did not hold classes in anticipation of protests against the publishing of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad by a French satirical magazine earlier this week.
This came days after an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. outraged many Muslims, who took to the streets in countries across the world.
Several thousand supporters of the Sidon-based Sheikh Ahmad Assir gathered in Beirut’s Martyrs Square to rally against the insults to the Prophet. (MORE)
In Benghazi tens-of-thousands of ordinary Libyans confronted and, for the time being, expelled a terrorist militia considered complicit in the consulate attack. According to The Telegraph:
Cheering protesters in Benghazi have stormed a base occupied by a militant Islamist group accused of complicity in the killing of the US ambassador to Libya, saying they were ‘reclaiming it for the nation’.
The direct action against Ansar al-Sharia, a group whose members were seen at the consulate building where the ambassador, Chris Stevens, died last week, followed a “Rally to Save Benghazi” by activists angry that the government and security forces had failed to take on militant groups.
There had been a similar but smaller protest in the capital, Tripoli, earlier. The crowd in Benghazi numbered 30,000, leading to fears of violence as the heavily-armed Ansar al-Sharia, or “Supporters of Sharia”, staged a counter-protest.
However, the Islamists were overwhelmingly outnumbered, and the protesters moved first to evict Ansar from a hospital for which they had been providing security.
Later in the evening, chanting “Libya, Libya” they moved on the main base further from the city centre, taking it over without resistance and setting fire to cars found inside. Police and members of the official army parked outside did nothing to intervene. (MORE)
Some reports suggest at least ten Libyans were killed in clashes with Islamist militias before the evictions succeeded.
Elsewhere rallies and protests were comparatively small and peaceful. In Cairo where several hundred had threatened violence last Friday, only “dozens” protested peacefully this Friday. According to Reuters,
Condemning the publication of the cartoons in France as an act verging on incitement, Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa said it showed how polarized the West and the Muslim world had become.
Gomaa said Mohammad and his companions had endured “the worst insults from the non-believers of his time. Not only was his message routinely rejected, but he was often chased out of town, cursed and physically assaulted on numerous occasions.
“But his example was always to endure all personal insults and attacks without retaliation of any sort. There is no doubt that, since the Prophet is our greatest example in this life, this should also be the reaction of all Muslims.”
As a friend headlines in a still-to-be-published piece: Newsflash: All Revolutions Involve Chaos. There will be many chaotic days ahead. But yesterday’s very mixed results are worth our attention. From this distance we too often hear and see only the worst. Reality is more complicated.