Wednesday, September 26

"French insult to Prophet Muhammad draws little protest in Cairo, elsewhere"

I didn't want readers to miss the following McClatchy report, published September 21. The report folds into the debates in the U.S. intelligence field about U.S. civilian espionage/intelligence-gathering in the post-Benghazi raid era and criticisms about U.S. intelligence-gathering -- topics I highlighted in my two most recent posts.

The report underscores the fact that the American hyperpower nation is a special target. This means its spies, and intelligence-gatherers such as envoys, are also special targets.

French insult to Prophet Muhammad draws little protest in Cairo, elsewhere
By Amina Ismail
McClatchy Newspapers
September 21, 2012

CAIRO — One week after violence swept across much of the Middle East over a YouTube video extremists blamed on the United States, there were only subdued demonstrations against France over cartoons published in a French magazine insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

In Lebanon, thousands of Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslim supporters of Hezbollah held a peaceful protest against anti-Islam movements. In Egypt, where thousands set off the worldwide protests by stomring the U.S. Embassy compound Sept. 11, scores of protesters, outnumbered by the police, gathered at the French embassy in Giza Friday and demanded an international law criminalizing insulting religions and prophets.

In Alexandria, the demonstrators in front of the French consulate could be counted in the dozens, though they did, according to Egyptian state radio, burn a French flag.

In Cairo, protesters wearing beards of ultra conservative Islamists and dressed in white robs raised black Islamic flags as they marched toward the French embassy. Police blocked roads leading to the building.

“Insulting the prophet is a red line. Religions should be respected,” said Attef Taj el Din, 40, a graphic designer, while carrying a banner that read: “A question to all rational people: Why insult the prophet? What about talking about the Jews holocaust? Is it a red line?”

But unlike last week's protests, in which went on for days and left dozens injured, the crowds Friday dispersed in a few hours. By nightfall, the police appeared bored sitting on the curb awaiting crowds that never appeared.

Some of those who did arrive seemed to be gathering in protest of the United States, not France.



Charles Cameron (hipbone) said...

Hi Pundita:

One week after violence swept across much of the Middle East over a YouTube video extremists blamed on the United States, there were only subdued demonstrations against France over cartoons published in a French magazine insulting the Prophet Muhammad.

Anti-American vs anti-French sentiment may be one factor here, but there's also a difference in visibility (with McLuhanesque implications) between a video clip and some cartoons on the inside pages of a satirical mag, maybe a difference between the specific insults as translated into Arabic by local news, and the possibility, too, of "protest fatigue".

Everything these days is so demm'd multifactorial, ne?

Pundita said...

Charles, This is war we're talking about not metaphysics so the "multifactorial" explanation is invalid.

So let's untangle this.

First of all, the infamous cartoons of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, etc. -- set off worldwide rioting among Muslims in 2005. Those cartoons weren't posted on YouTube; they were published in a newspaper. And they were published at a time when far fewer of the world's economically deprived Muslims had access to satellite TV and cell phones than today.

Second, the "Innocence of Muslims" video had only been viewed on YouTube about 300 times at the time the Egyptian riots launched on September 11. So most of the rioters had not seen the video, and still haven't seen the video, any more than all but a few have seen the French cartoons.

So in this case the psycho-epistemology of processing data that's presented in radically different guises has little to no impact on the stark difference between the protests in reaction to the Innocence of Islam video and the French cartoons.

Third, "protest fatigue" did not play a significant role because there were still vigorous anti-American protests on the same Friday that the anti-French protests were scheduled.

What, then, accounts for the difference? Certainly not a fondness for the French. The French government banned head scarfs and all excessive displays of Muslim fevor and protests. And since the Paris riots in 2005 the government hasn't hesitated to crack down on Muslim extremists in France.

In addition the class system in France is still so rigid that the vast majority of Muslim immigrant are basically segregated in the society, in a way they aren't in America, and relegated to a place on the bottom of the social heap.

This is not even getting into the squabble that broke out in the EU about whether France (and Italy) violated the Schengen Agreement last year or "simply" violated the "spirit" of Schengen. Either way, France clearly indicated to North Africans, especially the Muslims, that it wouldn't be 'overrun' by them, and hang the cornerstone agreement of the EU.

All this is famously known to Muslim leaders and even to any Muslim who closely follows al Jazeera or other Muslim-news oriented TV satellite channels.

And when one adds to these observations the fact that France is not a hyperpower, there was just very little payoff for Muslim leaders to make a federal case out of offensive cartoons this time around; indeed doing so would have been counterproductive. That's big demonstrations against the French would undercut the leaders' argument that the USA is Islam's whole problem.

To boil it down, the stark difference between the anti-French and anti-American riots/protests was due to a tactical decision.

As to whether it was a coordinated tactical decision -- coming up with a ballpark answer would require painstaking research, and some educated guesswork based on an extensive knowledge of the major Muslim leaders in each country where there were large anti-American protests.

Charles Cameron (hipbone) said...

Hi Pundita:

I owe you a better response than this, but I'm not sure I'll manage it, and wanted to at least say something rather than leave you hanging after your thoughtful response to my comment.

Your initial paras lay out your three basic disagreements with me, and it's #2 I'd like to tackle most:

the "Innocence of Muslims" video had only been viewed on YouTube about 300 times at the time the Egyptian riots launched on September 11. So most of the rioters had not seen the video

Hadn't the"blasphemy" of the video been exhaustively promoted by Khaled Abdullah, who first aired it on al-Nas on Sept 9th? I forget who it was, but one of the production team forwarded a link...

I now have more materials than I can easily search, and more leads than I can easily bring into nice Zenpundit posts, but I do think different formats can make a difference, I do think the various "amplifiers" like Abdullah can make even more of a difference, I do think there is an opportunist use of honoring the prophet to advance anti-American sentiment, and that military ops can take on blasphemy outrage camo...

But time presses -- maybe even it's winged chariot -- and I'll have to leave things there, with my best regards.

Pundita said...

Charles -- Maybe if you told me what you're trying to demonstrate I would understand you better. all i can do is repeat: the video was viewed about 300 times at YouTube.

additionally, the attack on the Cairo embassy was a straight-up al Qaeda op -- it was organized by Zawahiri's brother.

Additionally, there had been groups and/or mobs milling around the embassy not for days but for months prior to the attack. Not as large as the one that attacked on 9/11 but they routinely threw stones, molotov cocktails, etc. at the embassy.

Now all hell is breaking loose because of Cooper's interview last night with Arwa Damon about what she saw inside the benghazi consulate. see my latest post and you might want to mention the video to zen. the big question is why cnn sat on the phto evidence for all these weeks. that's where i have to put my attention right now over and out.

Pundita said...

PS: Charles, i hope you don't think i was fluffing you off, it's just that you seem to be driving at something and I don't know what it is. So when you find time you might want to clarify for me.

in addition, the business about demonstrations outside the embassy prior to 9/11 are connected in part with the blind sheik. I don't like putting links in my cmment section but below is the headline to a NYT report on that.

There was also a huge poster of the sheik put up in Tahrir square at some point -- it might have been as early as hosni's ouster but I can't recall and no time to research.

June 29, 2012, Just Off Tahrir Square, Protesters Demand Release of Blind Sheik Jailed in U.S.
New York Times

Now i really must run like a bunny