The protests against the anti-Islamic Innocence of Muslims film have continued to spread—from Pakistan to Greece.
And thousands protested in Nigeria’s largest city, Kano on Saturday of last week.
The 14 minute film trailer was produced as a provocation by Islamaphobic activists in the US.
Most Western governments have taken a contradictory view. Many claim to understand the offence caused. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton condemned the film as “reprehensible.”
The US government has paid for adverts on Pakistani television showing president Barack Obama and Clinton denouncing the film.
But while Western leaders accept that the offensive film may cause anger among Muslims, they see the worldwide response by ordinary people as entirely disproportionate. They refuse to accept any connection to a wider resentment of the West’s role in the world.
They can admit no link to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the deaths of more than a million people as a result, or to the years of funding and military backing for Israel.
At the same time the US government has allowed an inflammatory advert to be posted on New York subways. It says, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The first posters went up in stations last Monday. The posters are produced by Stop Islamization of America. The group has produced posters saying, “It’s not Islamophobia, it’s Islamorealism.”
And a French “satirical” magazine has produced offensive images, leading to more protests. Its publishers cite freedom of speech. That argument would get short shrift if the images were produced to offend black people.
Iranian students chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” outside the French embassy in Tehran. The government of Pakistan called official demonstrations against the film last week.
Railways minister Ghulam Ahmad Balor offered a £60,000 reward for the death of the filmmaker. The government has distanced itself from Balor’s statement, yet has not felt confident enough to sack him. But it was caught off guard by protesters fighting with police—20 people died.
This reaction to the film can’t be divorced from the “war on terror”. Many Pakistanis see their government as hopelessly compromised by ongoing US drone attacks which have killed a reported 880 civilians including 170 children since 2004.
On 21 September a drone blew up a car killing four. This followed a 20 day pause, presumably while they hoped the controversy over the film blew over.
France defends freedom—for racists
There was a bitter irony in France last week as the state banned protests allegedly to defend “freedom of expression”. There had been just one small demonstration against the Innocence of Muslims film.
But when struggling satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed the media and political establishment leapt to defend its “right to blaspheme”. The government banned protests against the cartoons.
Last Saturday police were filmed in Paris arresting women in headscarves, including tourists, as well as other Muslims. The incident brought back foul memories of the repression of Muslims by ex-fascist police chief Maurice Papon during the Algerian war of independence.
And it dashed any hopes that the rampant Islamophobia in France would soften under the Socialist Party government of François Hollande.
Several TV channels have transmitted speeches by fascist Front National leader Marine Le Pen. She called for Jewish skull caps as well as Muslim headscarves to be banned in public places this week. Another fascist group, the Nationalist Youth, plans to march in Paris on Saturday.
Agenda behind Libya protest
One of the first major protests in Libya since the fall of the dictator Colonel Gaddafi had seen the US ambassador to Libya killed in Benghazi. Three staff members were also killed in the attack, which involved Islamist militas.
“Rescue Benghazi” protests against militia took place across the city on Friday of last week. These were reported as an uprising of local people. But they were also part of a coordinated attempt by the government to get control of the city.
Eleven militia members died during the protests. The Libyan government last Sunday told militias to vacate premises occupied in Benghazi. The city was the heart of the rebellion against Gaddafi.
Figure it out
374 civilians killed in Afghanistan in August this year as a result of the war and occupation
581 civilians injured in Afghanistan in the same month—the second deadliest month for civilians since 2007
20 billion pounds is the estimated financial cost of the war and occupation to Britain