Current Weather
The Spy FM

Inciting Outrage, Film Spurs Delicate U.S. Response

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
September 14, 2012

The U.S. State Department is bracing for more protests at embassies and consulates in the Arab world over a video that ridicules the Prophet Muhammad.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is walking a fine line, distancing herself and the State Department as far as possible from the video that has sparked anger and protests across the Arab world.

“To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible,” she said Thursday in Washington, D.C. “It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage.”

But, she said, nothing justifies the kind of violence U.S. diplomats have faced.

Speaking alongside her counterpart from Morocco, she tried to give the Arab world a bit of a civics lesson.

“We do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views, no matter how distasteful they may be,” she said.

Morocco’s Foreign Minister Saad-Eddine al-Othmani used his brief speech at the State Department to denounce the video and the violent attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, where four Americans died this week, including the ambassador.

“We condemn this act of violence, and we share the sorrow of their families and the American people,” he said.

But the State Department doesn’t sound very confident that its messages are getting out across the Middle East. When a Twitter account linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt expressed relief that no embassy staff were harmed in protests there, the embassy tweeted back: “Thanks. By the way, have you checked out your own Arabic feeds? I hope you know we read those too.”

The embassy was suggesting the Islamists were sending mixed signals, but gave no examples.

“That tweet was a huge victory for the U.S. Embassy,” says Dalia Mogahed, executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. “It was retweeted and praised widely and frequently throughout the day.”

She says there have been plenty of comments on Twitter by Egyptians who understand the U.S. government position, but also many who argue that there should be laws criminalizing the defamation of religion.

“These two groups don’t fall neatly into Islamist or secular camps. They really are a mixed bag in both cases,” says Mogahed, author of the book Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think.

There are other challenges for the State Department as it tries to get its messages out. Mogahed has found with her research for the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies that the U.S. image in Egypt is getting worse.

“Directly after the revolution, there was a slight improvement in how people perceived American support for Egyptian democracy,” she says, “and as the transition hobbled along, those views worsened and worsened. And so the U.S. is speaking through a filter of both anger and a great deal of skepticism.”

The State Department seemed pleased with comments by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who vowed not to allow attacks on embassies in Cairo. But the U.S. has been frustrated with his response to the protests there. President Obama even told the Spanish-language network Telemundo that Egypt is neither an enemy nor an ally. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

5AM to 9AM Morning Edition

Morning Edition

For more than two decades, NPR's Morning Edition has prepared listeners for the day ahead with two hours of up-to-the-minute news, background analysis, commentary, and coverage of arts and sports.

Listen Live Now!

9AM to 10AM The Takeaway

The Takeaway

A fresh alternative in morning news, "The Takeaway" provides a breadth and depth of world, national and regional news coverage that is unprecedented in public media.

View the program guide!

10AM to 11PM On Point

On Point

On Point unites distinct and provocative voices with passionate discussion as it confronts the stories that are at the center of what is important in the world today. Leaving no perspective unchallenged, On Point digs past the surface and into the core of a subject, exposing each of its real world implications.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center