IF anything, the attack late Tuesday on the American Consulate in Libya — which killed American Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues — is both cowardly and imprudent. It came after the American administration played a key role in liberating the Libyan people from the autocratic and ruthless regime of Qaddafi.
Two points are worth referring to regarding this terrorist attack. First, throughout the Arab Spring, the Obama administration has been supporting the Arab masses in their just struggle to achieve freedom and independence. Were it not for the decisive American role in the Libyan revolution, Qaddafi would have most likely remained in power and the Libyan people would not have conducted their first-ever democratic elections. If I were a Libyan, I would have an extreme sense of gratitude for America.
Simultaneously, I found the blasphemous movie to be both weak and provocative for the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. Many observers argue that the film spurred the attack at a time when Americans were observing the anniversary of the terrible terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001. I just came back from the United States and had the opportunity to talk to people from all walks of life. I met a medical doctor at one party and he made it perfectly clear that the Arabs should have been treated differently by successive American administrations. Not only did he disagree with American foreign policy, but also voiced some hope that the current administration may change the situation for the better. I was deeply touched and moved by his prudent and wise words. But he also expressed his fear that many have not learned any lesson from the terrible event of Sept. 11.
I see eye-to-eye with the American president when he said: “While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose this kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.” The first sentence in this statement is indicative. President Obama is perhaps the only president over the last decades who tried his best to bridge the gap between his country and the Muslim world. We all remember his speech in Cairo six months after his inauguration in which he voiced a deep understanding of the role of his country in improving relations with the Arabs and the Muslims.
In fact, we live in a small and diverse world. If people pass judgment on other cultures and religions we end up paving the way for conflict and disputes. When King Abdullah appealed to the world asking for more dialogue among religions to make the world more peaceful, he was right. Unfortunately, there are always a few people who screw up the entire plan. This takes me to my second point. I really do not understand why the Israeli-American director came up with this movie in the first place. Why did he fail to be sensitive to the feelings of hundreds of millions of Muslims? Not only is the movie weak from a technical perspective and full of historical mistakes, but also it propagated hatred and only strengthens the radicals in our region. His intent and his effect were toxic.
Now the butcher of Syria — Bashar Assad — is rubbing his hands gleefully. He is happy to see the Americans pay a price for their human stand against dictatorship. But on the other hand, I think that the American administration should not be frustrated by such a cowardly attack and instead Obama should help the Libyan government win over this bunch of terrorists. If America ceases to support the Arab revolutions, this may send a message of weakness and be an invitation for further attacks.
Surely, the Republican nominee for presidential elections, Mitt Romney, is going to politicize the attack by accusing President Obama of lacking leadership. For him, the attack could serve as a game changer in the elections. Given Obama's lead in polls, Romney will exploit the attack by stressing the Republican strength in issues of national security and foreign policy. I think, Obama came with a balanced and wise reaction and hope that the American administration will not resort to action that only strengthen the radicals in our region.
The writer is a columnist at the Saudi-based Arab News, where this article was published on Sept. 14, 2012