Why the violent protests in the Middle East

September 14, 2012

Sept. 15, 2012                                    Nabil Echchaibi

It has all the ingredients for a disaster. That’s how Nabil Echchaibi (Nah-Bill Shah-bee), an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at CU-Boulder, explains why violent protests by Muslims over a film depicting the prophet Muhammad continue to erupt across the Middle East. 

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Why the violent protests in the Middle East

Sept. 15, 2012                                    Nabil Echchaibi

It has all the ingredients for a disaster. That’s how Nabil Echchaibi (Nah-Bill Shah-bee), an assistant professor of journalism and media studies at CU-Boulder, explains why violent protests by Muslims over a film depicting the prophet Muhammad continue to erupt across the Middle East.  

CUT 1 “When something like this happens and it’s got American roots to it, then it’s easy to make things erupt the way they do. (:08) Another ingredient of the story is that it was circulated very early on, actually by the Wall Street Journal, that there was an Israeli-American behind it. (:17) It’s Israel. It’s America and, of course, it’s the fact that this is the first film that Muslims can see the Prophet being depicted. You put all these ingredients together and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.” (:33)

Echchaibi, who calls himself a moderate Muslim, does not condone the violent protests. And he says that although Muslims are insulted by the film, only a minority are protesting violently.

CUT 2 “I talk to people in Morocco and the outrage is quite widespread but it doesn’t mean that every single person is going to go out and participate in a mob and go and protest at the door of an embassy. (:15) There were in Libya people standing in these peaceful demonstrations with signs that say ‘No to the ridicule of Islam. No to the ridicule of the prophet’ but also ‘No to terrorism.’” (:30)

In some cases he believes extreme Islamists are exploiting the anger Muslims feel about the film. He explains how the host of an Islamist Egyptian TV show aired a clip of the film and challenged viewers to act.

CUT 3 “And he was literally beseeching fellow Muslims to do something about this and he said, ‘How long are we gong to be silent about this. Our prophet is denigrated.’ And then they showed about 4 minutes or so of the YouTube video. (:18) I am a very moderate Muslim and it played and it stirred up emotions in me. And I can imagine someone who is a literalist and a radical being easily moved by the words that he or she were hearing at the time.” (:34)

As for the deadly attack in Libya, although he can’t prove it, Echchaibi believes al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups are responsible and not an unruly crowd of protesters.

CUT 4 “This is not a far-fetched idea. This is a very political move on the part of al Qaeda. And Ansar al Sharia, which is another group that is affiliated with al Qaeda, has been saying all along, ‘Look, we want an Islamist government.’ (:17) And the fact that this is at night also tells me this is not a spontaneous mob. A mob does not come out at 10 p.m. Why would they come out at 10 p.m.?” (:27)

Echchaibi is associate director of the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado Boulder. His research focuses on issues such as identity, religion and the role of media in shaping and reflecting modern religious subjectivities among Muslims in the Middle East.

-CU-

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