Turkey Pulse

Did You Notice? The Crowds Protesting Video Were Small

Article Summary
Now that the dust is beginning to settle on demonstrations against an anti-Islam video made in the US, it's clear they were not representative of the majorities of Muslims where they took place, writes Seminh Idiz. The relatively small numbers of protesters suggest this, along with the cooperation of their new governments with the West.

A film meant to provoke did precisely that, and senseless crowds intent on killing attacked Western embassies. Western public opinion, recovered from the shock of the deaths of the US ambassador in Libya and three other embassy staffers, is now exhibiting counter rage.

Those aspiring to fuel the conflict between civilizations and to inflame the hatred between Muslims and Christians are certainly delighted. While leaders of Muslim countries, which were scenes of violent incidents, were apologizing with embarrassment to the US,  al-Qaeda was dancing with joy over Ambassador Christopher Stevens' death.

Western provocateurs, who because of their own ideology are pleased with the violence, are appealing to their public: “Let these cannibals continue to live in the darkness of the Middle Ages.”

Sadly, we are living at a time when a bunch of radicals could shake the stability of the world from their living rooms. Caught in the middle are millions of moderate Muslims who are witnessing the denigration of their faith. Paying the worst price among them are millions of Muslims living in the West.

If you look carefully, you will see the crowds attacking the embassies were not in tens of thousands but in hundreds or, at worst, in a couple of thousands. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been elected to rule the county, did not participate in demonstrations encouraged by Salafists.

This is why you can argue how representative of Islam the demonstrators were or were not. Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that the attacks were not spontaneous but organized intentionally by a few radicals trying to exploit the film affair.

Turkey’s difference

Here, I must mention something positive about our country. It is gratifying to see that no such violence took place in Turkey, where the people were at least as offended by this film as Muslims anywhere else. It was yet another illustration of  the “Turkish difference.”

But there is a reality. Even if their numbers are small, those demonstrating in the streets and those goading them are able to use the shock effect of the violence to create a chaotic environment they desire. They are not aware that their goals have nothing to do with the real world.

The discomfort of new Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a staunch Muslim believer, with the events is but one illustration. Morsi’s real task now is to improve the welfare of his people suffering from an economy that was badly mauled by the Arab Spring.

This may explain why Egyptian Minister of Finance Momtaz al-Saed happily announced a couple of days ago an agreement with Turkey on a $2 billion relief package. Of course, the money to be provided by Turkey will not mean the end of Egypt’s massive economic problems. This is why Egypt is also negotiating with the IMF for a $4.8 billion package and a supplementary assistance of $1 billion from the US in addition to the $1.5 billion annual military assistance that Washington provides for Cairo.

The problems of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen — which all had regime changes brought about by the Arab Spring — are similar. They all need international cooperation. To be honest, the new leaders of these countries have to maintain good relations with the West, whether they like it or not.

Salafists, unhappy with these developments, try everything they can to spoil this reality while they offer nothing to upgrade the welfare level of the people. All they want is to rule their countries according to their rigidly theocratic world views.

This is the true reality that faces the political parties now operating under the umbrella of a Muslim Brotherhood empowered by the Arab Spring.  This is why today what is being tested is not the West but the Muslim world trying to cope with problems of backwardness.

Found in: yemen, tunisia, protests, libya, egypt, arab, ambassador

Semih Idiz is a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse. He is a journalist who has been covering diplomacy and foreign policy issues for major Turkish newspapers for 30 years. His opinion pieces can be followed in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News. His articles have also been published in The Financial Times, The Times of London, Mediterranean Quarterly and Foreign Policy magazine.


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