Dangerous and deepening divide between Islamic world, West
Even those who reject the term as loaded and simplistic speak sadly of a perhaps catastrophic failure of understanding between Americans in particular and many Muslims.
The outrage and violence over a crude film ridiculing the Prophet Mohammad points to a chasm between Western free speech and individualism and the sensitivities of some Muslims over what they see as a campaign of humiliation.
There seems no shortage of forces on both sides to fan the flames. The tumult over the video had not even subsided when a French magazine this week printed a new cartoon showing the prophet naked.
“It’s ridiculous,” Zainab Al-Suwaij, executive director of the America Islamic Congress, said of the violence that on Friday killed 15 in Pakistan alone as what were supposed to be peaceful protests turned violent.
“Yes, this video is offensive but it is clearly a grotesque over reaction that in part is being whipped up by radical Islamists in the region for their own ends. But it does show you the depth of misunderstanding between the cultures.”
Starting last week with a few relatively small embassy protests and a militant attack in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three others, violence has since spread to more than a dozen countries across the Middle East and Asia.
Despite the focus on religion, few doubt there are other drivers of confrontation.
The war on terrorism, U.S. drone strikes, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the Guantanamo Bay prison simply continue, in many Muslims’ perceptions, centuries of Western meddling, hypocrisy and broken promises.
Meanwhile, many Americans see those regions as an inexplicable source of terrorism, hostage-taking, hatred and chaos. In Europe, those same concerns have become intertwined with other battles over immigration and multiculturalism.
“It has always been a difficult relationship and in the last decades it has become even more delicate,” said Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies at American University in Washington. “Even a seemingly minor matter can upset the balance. … What is needed is more sensitivity and understanding on both sides, but that is difficult to produce.” [More]