YouTube video demeans Muhammad, sparks violent rallies in Libya, Egypt
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 01:09
A YouTube video mocking the Muslim Prophet Muhammad has sparked anti-American rallies in more than a dozen Islamic countries over the past two weeks, culminating in the murders of four American diplomatic personnel in Libya.
The video contains scenes of Egyptian police watching as men wearing head coverings and robes beat a young girl wearing a cross and burn the homes of Christians.
Ahmed Sharkawy, electrical engineering professor and dual American and Egyptian citizen, said Egypt is currently in a volatile state. He said he was not surprised by the movements and riots that occurred after the release of the video.
“Normal way of life in Egypt is no longer the status quo,” Sharkawy said. “With the uprising in Egypt after the revolution on Jan. 25, a lot of things changed. The events leading to last week’s riots is not really a new thing—it’s just a natural consequence.”
Although the riots occurred because of the video “Innocence of Muslims,” he said protesters had additional grievances.
Sociology professor Eric Tranby said long-term domestic wars in the Middle East combined with the Iraq War and the Arab Spring uprisings have all contributed to political unrest.
Despite several reasons for turbulence, Tranby said the focal point of the protests is opposition to the video. He said many people feel the video characterizes Islam unfairly and also feel political changes are not happening quickly enough in the region, sparking even more unease.
“What makes this past year different is the absence of a strong dictator in Egypt,” Tranby said. “So what we’re seeing is really kind of growing pains of a young democracy where extreme voices are going to rise and be allowed to emerge.”
According to Tranby, many citizens of Egypt and neighboring countries have lived in a place where freedom of speech is not guaranteed. He said when the video came out, people thought that it had been sanctioned or accepted by the citizens or government of the countries. The Middle Eastern people are protesting the video because they think it is the government’s stance, Tranby said.
Sharkawy said the citizens of these fledgling democracies are still learning the basic principles of their new forms of government.
“This is like a new born baby who you are training to learn these new skills and one of these major new skills is freedom of speech,” he said. “The way it has been taught is probably not the best way because we have countries that have been oppressed for 20 to 30 years so it just came about.”
Sharkawy, who chose to not watch the video in order to not help increase popularity, said he believes the attacks in Libya were unjustified. He said there are other ways to express an opinion without resorting to violence or murder.
“As much as we have respect for Prophet Muhammad, who is a prophet and a messenger, the ambassador is also a messenger, and [the ambassador is] just doing his job,” he said.