Pictures of thousands of angry Islamic protestors flocking to the streets screaming “death to America,” or “death for the infidels” or worst of all, a 5-year-old girl holding a sign saying “behead all those who insult the prophet” (story) have flooded the internet and all of the new channels angering and frustrating the American people. To date, the Obama Administrations efforts to quell the demonstrations have actually fanned the flames instead of calming them. Repeating the same words over and over again “in a free society, we can’t control free speech” is have NO impact on the demonstrations or anger aimed at ALL Americans, not the few (not even from America) that made the film. What is causing this incredible disconnect?
Unfortunately we are dealing with a classic examples of two cultures that have such different bedrock views on a fundamental issue that neither can see why the other does not understand. In the U.S. we see a clear distinction between the views of the government and the views of individual citizens. We expect and thrive on differences of opinion and cherish as fundamental our First Amendment rights of free speech. In the Middle East, it is inconceivable to most that any movie or speech can be made or released without express government approval and support.
For many Muslims, in contrast, any transgressions on the cherished symbols of their beliefs have nothing to do with freedom and everything to do with a hegemonic West intent on willful and reckless disregard of Muslim sensibilities. For some in the Islamic world, this is the latest manifestation of the longstanding hostility of western Christianity reaching back to the early days of Islam, the Crusades, the colonial legacy, and the establishment of Israel in the heart of the Arab world, not to mention more recent American armed forays in various Muslim territories. This vicious circle of mutual miscomprehension is further compounded by the fixed, if inaccurate, belief within Muslim societies, that whatever happens within the western media must be at least tacitly approved by the relevant governments. In many Muslim countries, freedom of expression within the media barely exists. http://mideast.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/09/18/globalization_and_its_discontents
The protestors simply can’t and wont believe that the movie’s perceived insults to the prophet were not part of an official U.S. policy
Complicating things even further, the West sees the horrible film “Innocence of Muslims” as a pretext for an already planned attack on U.S. interests on 9/11. The West isn’t wrong – the movie was release six months earlier with nary a word of protest and the protests just “happened” to start on 9/11. (Filming concludes in August, 2011) there is plenty of evidence that this was a well planned and coordinated attack and the film was merely a pretext used by the coordinated attackers. (Washington Times) What the West doesn’t get however, is that none of that matters to the Islamic world. Whenever the movie was made, and even if the film was brought to their attention by groups with ulterior motives, the bottom line to the average person on the street is that the movie insults the Prophet. (Film blamed for protests)
Unfortunately, the Obama Administration has done nothing to understand and engage the culture of the Middle East and has done everything to play right into the views of the Muslim world – in fact erroneously confirming a number of suspicions of the Islamic world. Instead of ignoring the film at the time of the attacks, the United states immediately condemned and apologized for its release. (Apology) This show of weakness did nothing to appease the protestors, it actually sparked more outrage. The Obama Administration then demanded that law enforcement determine whether the film’s maker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, had violated the terms of his probation creating new images of a handcuffed Nakoula be put into a police cruiser surrounded by half a dozen armed members of law enforcement. (Investigation) Both of these moves have backfired on the Administration because both moves reinforce the Islamic world’s perception that the American government can in fact act if it wanted to act.
This is not the first time in U.S. history that failure to understand cultural differences made foreign policy efforts look clumsy and bumbling. The United States never understood the mentality of the Vietnamese when the French lured Kennedy into that mess and the U.S. only started understanding the Soviet mentality near the end of the cold war. I am a harsher critic of the Obama Administration because it lives in real-time with the exchange of information occurring almost instantaneously. There is plenty of information out there, it’s just a matter of whether the President wants to properly use that information or instead use the crisis as yet another tactic in his campaign.