Why a YouTube video sparked riots

Jaime Carrillo and Jaime Carrillo

It’s a question that’s been on many people’s minds.
On the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed along with three colleagues by a grenade launched by militants at the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.
Why did a gang of militants strike on the U.S. embassy? Perceived anger from a YouTube trailer for a film called “Innocence of Muslims.”
The 14-minute clip features bad acting, cheaply made costumes and the Prophet Mohammad being portrayed as an oaf at best and a pederast at worst.
The film’s producer is 55-year-old Egyptian-American Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a man that was recently convicted of financial crimes in June 2010.
Some wonder how a poorly made YouTube movie could culminate in murder.
“Historically, Muslims honor the Prophet as a model of perfect Muslim behavior,” says ARC Islamic Studies professor Keith Atwater. “They typically convey any insult to him as an insult to Islam and God himself.”
This isn’t the first time Islam being portrayed in a poor light has angered masses.
Novelist Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel “The Satanic Verses” sparked outrage in the Arab Spring for presenting blasphemous ideas concerning Islam. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the spiritual leader of Iran, issued a fatwa (a judicial ruling concerning Islamic law) calling for Rushdie’s life. Rushdie was forced to live in hiding, with protection of the British government until September 1998.
In September 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published 11 images depicting Islam and the Prophet Mohammad in a poor light; one such cartoon portrayed the prophet with a bomb in his turban. This sparked international conflict, with countries such as Libya, Saudi Arabia and Syria withdrawing their ambassadors from Denmark. Protests occurred in just about every country and the cartoonists responsible went into hiding because of death threats.
However, many feel that the outrage has little to do with blasphemy. Rushdie himself spoke out on the events saying that the anger in the Arab Spring is nothing but “cynical manipulation.” Whitney Bodman, chair of the Texas Conference of Churches Muslim-Christian forum agrees.
“There are those who will do anything to make us hate and fear,” he stated. “Thanks be to God for those Christians, Muslims, and Jews – people of every faith and people of no faith – who have the courage and wisdom to do neither.”
Bodman is correct in his statement that not all Muslims are up in arms. Pro-America protests have sprung up in Afghanistan, Syria and especially Libya, where 30,000 protestors poured into the streets to denounce the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues killed in Benghazi. Protestors even stormed the headquarters of radical militia group Ansar al-Sharia and turned members of the group over to the Libyan government.
“There are 1.35 billion Muslims in the world,” says Atwater. “For a few angry Muslims that may throw rocks at a window or kill, there are countless more that won’t.”