It's unclear if the Obama administration's purpose in condemning the now-infamous "anti-Islam YouTube video" was to deflect from Obama's failed Middle East policies, and those of Benghazi in particular, or if it was his intent to "protect Islam from negative stereotypes" as he promised to do in his Cairo speech. Either way, his constant denunciation of the 14-minute, amateurish, anti-Islam YouTube clip signals weakness to the Muslim world and may have given license to Muslims in the West to demand restrictions on freedom of speech.
It later came to light that the brutal murders of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were the result of a pre-planned terrorist attack by an al Qaeda affiliate. However, in the beginning the Obama administration insisted that the attack had nothing to do with U.S. foreign policy and instead blamed the murders on a "spontaneous" uprising in response to the obscure video, which administration officials referred to as "reprehensible and disgusting."
Obama appointees refused to let the storyline drop. Jay Carney, White House Spokesman; Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State; and U.N. representative Susan Rice all repeated the mantra. Mr. Obama even addressed the clip in his speech at the United Nations, proclaiming that "the future must not belong to those who slander the Prophet of Islam."
To make matters worse, in Pakistan, the U.S. government went so far as to purchase $70,000 of TV ads lambasting the film, in an unsuccessful attempt to quell anti-American riots.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Oct. 14, 2012, thousands of angry Muslims marched outside Google headquarters in London. They were protesting the same YouTube trailer scapegoated by the administration. Titled "Innocence of Muslims," the film portrays the Prophet Mohammad as a pedophile, philanderer and religious fraud. It was originally posted in English, but later was translated into Arabic and went viral on the Internet.
As protestors in London ratcheted up their "Campaign for Global Civility," police flanked the doors of Google headquarters and placed barricades around the building. Several streets in England's capital were closed down for hours due to the demonstration.
The march was organized by the Muslim Action Forum, a group that formed in direct response to the anti-Islam film and its notoriety. Hundreds of mosques from across Great Britain participated in the event, with some people traveling as far as Glasgow in order to attend.
Police reported that an estimated 3,000 protestors showed up, but the Muslim Action Forum claims the number was approximately 10,000.
The stated purpose of the campaign is to ban the video worldwide. Protestors carried signs that read, "[W]e love our Prophet more than our lives" and "[Google executives] support terrorism."
It's hard to believe with signs like these, that civility is the goal. According to Sufi cleric Alam Ghulam Rabbini, though, civility means the restriction of free speech if it "hurt[s] the feelings of 1.5 billion Muslims." According to Sheik Faiz Al-Aqtab Siddiqui, terrorists are not necessarily those who kill people, but those "who kill human feelings as well." Thus, blasphemy equals terrorism.
At the demonstration, over a dozen Imams made speeches in Arabic, English and Urdu. The speeches were met with shouts of "Allahu Akbar" (Allah is great!"), the same cry echoed by Islamic terrorists around the globe before launching their attacks. The audience was urged to honor the Prophet by refusing to back down until their demands were met. There was no room for alternative viewpoints.
In effect, the crowd demanded that western non-Muslims comply with Islamic blasphemy codes.
Protests have already been held in much of the Muslim world, where blasphemy rules already exist. Now, Muslims in the West are holding mass protests to shut down any YouTube material that they deem to be "Islamophobic," in direct contradiction to the principles of free speech.
This was the third protest held this month. The Muslim Action Forum is planning to hold protests across the globe and is currently organizing a "Million Muslim March," to be held in the upcoming weeks.
Masoud Alam, organizer of the London march, is hoping to put together a coalition of Jews, Christians and others to join in the campaign. Hopefully, non-Muslims won't be deluded into believing that such a campaign will protect their faiths from insult, assault or criticism, as the "civility" likely applies only to Islam.
It appears that the more the Obama administration condemns the film, the more Muslims protest. The Islamic notion of "combating defamation of Islam" as it is defined in the Muslim world is a concept utterly at odds with the American value of free expression. In the American legal system, only people are afforded protection from defamation, and truth is a defense. People are free to express their opinions, however abhorrent they might be. But "defamation of Islam" provides Islam with protection from criticism, even if the criticism is true.
Google executives are to be commended for standing strong. So far, they have refused to remove the video clip in countries where free speech is legal, even when governments have requested the video's removal. As Eric Schmidt, Google Chairman explained, "the answer to bad speech is more speech."
Political Islam is the ultimate enemy of freedom. Yet, the more Muslims galvanize to demonstrate hostility toward America, Mr. Obama just keeps coming back for more self-blame.
Deborah Weiss is a lawyer and co-author of "Saudi Arabia and the Global Islamic Terrorist Network" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).