Last week's sporadic violence over an amateur video that blasphemed the Islamic religion and Prophet Muhammad has continued to linger in much of the Muslim world and beyond.
Starting in Egypt, and then Libya, where crowds stormed the American embassy in Benghazi; it claimed the lives of Chris Stevens, the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three of his embassy staff. It spread to Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon, Pakistan, and ignited anti-Western sentiments in much of the rest of the world. The new Libyan authorities have fittingly apologized to the U.S. government for the deaths of the embassy officials.
Clearly, the motive for making the blasphemous video is to disparage the Islamic religion and its adherents in order to provoke their anger and cause chaos and then turn round to brand Muslims as intolerant and violent people with a proclivity for mayhem on the slightest provocation. The fact is that Christians, Jews and Hindus would react in a similar fashion if their religions are portrayed in such derogatory manner, which is why Holocaust doubters are still being hunted by the Israeli government up till today, and its denial is a crime in many countries; widespread violence in Ayodhya a few years ago in India showed the terrible outcome of wounded religious sensibility of the Hindu. This anger-baiting of Muslims is certainly not an isolated case. It has become the pastime of fundamentalist Christians in the United States, where a priest-if indeed he is one -named Terry Jones had to be prevailed upon not to set copies of the Quran ablaze, or a Gert Wilders, a far-right political party leader in Netherlands whose election ploy remains the incitement of anti- Islamic and anti-immigration sentiments.
It is therefore wrong to surmise that those behind these series of provocation of Muslims are merely besotted bigots from the lunatic fringe of the society. Evidence has proven that indeed the unrelenting onslaught against Muslims is the handiwork of individuals and groups from the mainstream of Western society. The latest baiting and its bloody outcome has given rise to a number of conjectures, including the one that has to do with the quest to gain advantage in the impending election in the US by one party over the other.
The offensive video, pundits say, aimed to turn the Democratic Party gains into a liability and a vote losing gambit when Muslims are made to turn against US interests to show that the US Middle -East policy has yielded nothing. It is interesting that the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi bore an uncanny resemblance to the siege of the US embassy in Teheran, Iran in 1979 which largely cost former Jimmy Carter re-election. The haste with which Republican Mitt Romney blamed President Barrack Obama for the attacks on US embassies even before the detail became known, lends credence to this viewpoint.
The fact that the people behind the video are yet to come out into the open not only shows a lack of conviction on their part but also buttresses the notion that it was targeted to create mayhem that is being witnessed now. It is important that effort is made to contain the raging violence so that life can return to normal in these countries, whose governments must be credited for working to limit the impact of the rage. International inter-religious organisations and fora seeking to build trust between all religions must work harder to make their followers imbibe the verities of tolerance and open-mindedness needed to avoid recurrence. The US and other western nations should find a way to curb activities of agents provocateurs in their midst that use the cover of freedom of speech and of expression to assault religious sensibilities of people of other faiths.
In Nigeria, thankfully early entreaties succeeded in preventing outbreak of violence. Governments at all levels as well as organizations such as inter-faith bodies should continue to insist that what some bigots do elsewhere must never make Nigerians resort to violence against one another.