The cold, dead hand of Salafi extremism was once again on display in Benghazi.
According to Robert Worth of the New York Times, “the attack on the American Embassy in Cairo — unlike the one that killed [Ambassador to Libya Christopher] Stevens — appears to have been spontaneous, led by Egyptians genuinely angered by news of the film clip, distributed on YouTube, which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a confused, bloodthirsty pedophile of uncertain parentage.”
As for the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, it
… might have less to do with any intrinsic Muslim intolerance than with the ideological chaos that reigns in the Arab world, where extremists routinely exploit popular anger and invoke Islam to draw attention to fundamentally political and even internecine goals. … Bernard Haykel, a professor of Middle East studies at Princeton University, said, “It’s true that there are sanctions against insulting the Prophet, but this is really about political or symbolic opportunists, who use religious symbols to advance their own power or prestige against other groups.”
In other words, Salafi extremists exploit Middle-Eastern anger against the United States just like Pastor Terry Jones, thanks to whom the offending film went viral, exploits American anger against Islam.
Meanwhile, from the Department of Silver Linings
… there were outpourings of rage across Libya on Wednesday against the killers and against the Salafis more generally. In addition to demonstrations in Tripoli and Benghazi, Twitter was inundated with pro-American messages by young Libyans; several of them pleaded for the United States Marines to come and crush the Salafis.
Likewise, it behooves Americans to remember that Salafism, especially at its most extreme, such as al Qaeda, does not define Islam.
Cross-posted from the Foreign Policy in Focus blog Focal Points.