A free world with a hollow ring

One of the benefits of hindsight is that we can make light of some of the most macabre experiences mankind has had to endure. Now we know that it doesn’t take much to disturb the world order when there are people who feel wronged and are desperate to be heard and accepted for who they are.

On 28 June, 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne was fatally shot in Sarajevo, by Gavrilo Princip, one of the six Bosnian Serb assassins coordinated by Danilo Ilić. The objective of the assassination was to break off Austria-Hungary's south-Slav provinces so they could be combined into a Greater Serbia or a Yugoslavia. The assassins' motives were consistent with the movement that later became known as Young Bosnia.

The attack, however, achieved more than its original objective. It led to the outbreak of World War I a month later. According to Princip, he had made up his mind at the age of seventeen to ‘perpetrate an outrage,’ owing to the wretched condition they were living in as Slavs.

On 17 December 2010, Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor set himself on fire, in protest to the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that he reported was inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides. His act became a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring, inciting demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country. Following Bouazizi's death, public anger forced then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down after 23 years in power.

The success of the Tunisian protests inspired protests in several other Arab countries, plus several non-Arab countries. The worst happened in Libya where the then leader, Muammar Ghaddafi and some family members were killed in a discomforting fashion.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula alias Sam Bacile, is an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian thought to be the writer, producer and distributor of the anti-Islam film ‘Innocence of Muslims.’ The trailers for the film, after being dubbed into Arabic, are cited as a cause of the 2012 US diplomatic missions attacks.

Nakoula was born in Egypt, immigrated to the United States and became an American citizen and has an extremely shady background. Prior to a bank fraud conviction, he struggled with a series of financial problems. He is reported to have been arrested by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in 1997 after being pulled over in possession of ephedrine, hydroiodic acid and 45,000 US dollars in cash. He was charged with intent to manufacture methamphetamine (meth).

The man has denied being the film's director but it has been reported that the cellular phone number used by the director for an interview matched Nakoula's address. Another fact that emerged is that among his aliases were names which sounded similar to Sam Bacile. It is also said that one law enforcement official identified Nakoula as the key filmmaker. Some of the movie also appears to have been filmed at his home. According to authorities, he wrote the script while in prison and produced it with his son and the money for it came from his wife's family in Egypt.

Unlike Bouazizi and Princip, ‘Bacile’s’ track record points to an opportunistic character devoid of any good intentions and deeds. But like the Serb and Tunisian, he wasn’t aware of the dire consequences his actions would cause. After clips of the film went public not only did they cause protests against the US and in some countries, other Western embassies, but also led to the death of a sitting American ambassador and three officials. He becomes the eighth US ambassador to be killed in the line of duty; naturally you can understand the Americans’ anger.

But do we draw any lessons from all these? The first may be the fact that under Ghaddafi, it’s highly unlikely than an American ambassador and other officials would have died in the protests. It seems like attempts to keep the free world safe from ‘evil’ regimes is having a reverse effect. It has unleashed unruly elements that perhaps make it necessary at times for autocratic regimes just to keep them in check. Unwelcome interventions may, in certain occasions, take society from bad to worse and Libya may just be an epitome.   

The film might have sparked off the protests against American embassies but they were bound to happen sooner or later. America has committed a litany of misdemeanors to the Muslim world and the film simply offered an avenue for believers to vent off their frustration. And America will never apologise because one of its citizens exercised his first amendment right. Thus Muslims the world over will continue to remain discontented as Uncle Sam remains arrogant and presses for a ‘free world.’

But freedom should have its limits, if not then there shouldn’t be double standards. It is very sad to note that Barack Obama has to apologise profusely for having a name that suggests he is a Muslim. Being a Muslim to Americans is alike a bad disease, but to the same Americans it is okay to be gay. If it is okay to respect and accept that which does not come natural, how difficult is it then to do the same for that which comes natural? America needs to rethink and revisit its policies with regards to the Muslim world. Continuous demonisation of Islam will not serve any good purpose.

As Mrs Clinton said, the film was reprehensible but does not justify what happened in Libya. In as much as that is true, the fact shall remain that the film was just a tip of the iceberg, there are far more serious issues that need to be addressed be the self-declared crusader of a ‘free world’. 


A FORMER sports editor with the ‘Daily News’ ...


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