With the latest Kabul suicide bomber attack being ascri-bed to anger over Innocence of Muslims, a film derogatory of Islam, the death toll from the protests against the film has passed 30 and affected over 20 countries. Among the dead is a US ambassador. While the film has served as the trigger for this explosion, it is difficult to see it as the cause. After all, it is not even certain the film exists — all that has been seen is a trailer, which has been floating about on the internet for a year. The film is the product of a group of extremist Christians and had no sanction or support from any government or institution.
This film, as in other such cases, has aroused the deep anti-American and anti-western sentiment that permeates the Arab Muslim world in particular but also other Muslim countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. Given the amount of scurrilous material that exists on the internet and the number of Islamophobic groups that exist, more such incidents can be expected over the years. A French magazine’s decision to come out with a new set of Prophet Mohammad cartoons is a case in point.
The real question is if this suspicion of the West can be overcome. It will certainly not happen soon. At the heart of it is an accretion of US policy decisions in West Asia that have reinforced deep suspicions about the motives of the outside world. Some would argue this resentment can be traced to the depredations of the European colonial powers. It will take decades for this sentiment to be reversed. Washington’s decision to support the popular revolts of the Arab Spring will help: the response of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt is an example of how responsibility makes even conservative Islamicists hold their tongue. This sort of political empowerment is ultimately the only real way to erode a culture of victimisation. But this will be a lengthy learning process, one punctuated with many similar bursts of passionate and irrational violence.