Lost in the noise was that more people in Benghazi demonstrated against the extremists who were responsible for the protests that resulted in the destruction of the American consulate and the death of Ambassador Stevens [REUTERS]
|In the recent wave of anti-Western demonstrations, political Islam has operated globally. The West’s response has been mired in the local politics of its separate nation-states.
It is a curious reversal of the historic imperial relation, in which it was the West who did the dividing and ruling.
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|Muslim-Western relations are under the spotlight again after widespread protests over an anti-Islam video made in the US and cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in a French magazine.
Western diplomatic missions in Muslim countries are on high alert as the protests spread.
In Pakistan, the government declared Friday a national holiday to allow people to protest peacefully. But there were clashes in Peshawar and Karachi, and demonstrators have tried to storm the US embassy in Islamabad but have so far been prevented by the Pakistani armed forces.
In a bid to calm public anger the US has bought airtime, to the tune of $70,000, on Pakistani television to run a series of ads.
Victoria Nuland, the US state department spokesperson, made the announcement, saying: “In the case of Pakistan, it is common and traditional to have to buy airtime on Pakistani TV for public service announcements. So in that environment, it was their recommendation that we buy some airtime to make sure that the Pakistani people would hear the president’s messages and the secretary’s [Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state] messages.”
The US embassy in Islamabad also sent out street interviews conducted with Americans to local media with one very clear message: that the video does not represent American values.
But, according to Blake Hounshell, the editor of Foreign Policy magazine, it is unlikely that an advertising campaign like this will make any difference to those showing anger towards the US.
“It is an interesting tactic buying TV ads on Pakistani stations,” he said. “I doubt it will have much impact though. These protests … seem to be orchestrated by hardline Islamic groups that aren’t really sympathetic to these kinds of messages coming from the US government. They are looking to pressure the Pakistani government and boost their own support base. So those aren’t the type of people who are going to be responsive to this kind of message.”
Are apologies and condemnation enough? Do these demonstrations have the potential to alter policies? And what should be done by both sides to stem the anger and improve relations?
Joining presenter Folly Bah Thibault on Inside Story to discuss this are guests: Anas al-Tikriti, the CEO of the Cordoba Foundation; David Mack, a former US diplomat; and Mehmet Kalyoncu, an advisor to the OIC ambassador to the UN.
In Indian-administered Kashmir, protests broke out on Tuesday against the anti-Islam video entitled “The Innocence of Muslims”. Hundreds of protesters in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir, tried to march to a United Nations building but were stopped by police. All across Kashmir, businesses closed their doors in a strike against the video that sparked violent outrage across much of the Muslim world.