Politics & Society
September Thu 13, 2012
J. Christopher Stevens, the American ambassador who was killed yesterday in Benghazi, was not just any diplomat. Not only because he was a former Peace Corps volunteer who spoke Arabic in his youth, and had refined his knowledge by living for two years in the mountains of Morocco, and not only because he was an expert who had worked for most of his career in the Near and Middle East, but especially because he was the diplomatic representative from Washington who arrived in Benghazi in April of last year on board a Greek merchant ship to get in touch with the leaders of the revolt against Gaddafi. Then, in his role as ambassador to the provisional government set up by the insurgents, he was responsible for supplying them with arms and ammunition. Later, after the defeat and killing of Gaddafi, he was transferred from Benghazi to Tripoli where he reopened the U.S. Embassy. In Benghazi, which he believed he know well, he evidently felt confident to the point that, apparently, he had no escort. This is really surprising when you consider that American ambassadors and consuls live under police protection even in countries that are far less problematic, including Italy.The casus belli, the reason, behind the attack on the headquarters of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi - where he was with three other Americans who lost their lives with him - was the news of a video about Muhammad, which may have been produced by Coptic Christian Americans of Egyptian origin. In the eyes of most Muslims, such a thing would be outrageous in itself. According to a saying, the Prophet cannot be the subject of plays and, thus, videos regardless of whether or not those videos are respectful. In any case it is considered a sacrilege.It therefore seems strange that Copts, even if they were Americans, would not know what consequences such an initiative would have in the Muslim world. In fact, the news was not taken well in the Arab world, and demonstrations culminating in sieges of the American embassies occurred in other countries as well, including in Egypt. It was also the anniversary of the attack on the Twin Towers of September 11, and we know that, in the Arab world, anniversaries of such events arouse the desire to replicate them, at least in so far as is possible.
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