An Egyptian court on Jan. 29 upheld the in absentia death sentences of seven Coptic Christians and an American preacher on charges stemming from the amateur anti-Muslim "film" Innocence of Muslims, which sparked violent protests in the Middle East last year. A criminal court in Cairo sentenced the convicted defendants in November, pending the final verdict just announced. The death sentences are primarily symbolic, as all of the defendants live outside of Egypt. The eight defendants include Mark Basseley Youssef, the California man who produced the film, as well as Florida pastor Terry Jones, who aroused controversy last year by publicly burning a Koran. The film depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and a womanizer. The court found the defendants guilty of subverting national unity, spreading false information and insulting Islam, charges that carry the death penalty.
Two Egyptians were killed and two injured in an apparent attack on a Coptic church near the Libyan city of Misrata Dec. 30. "Unknown assailants targeted a church building in the town of Dafniya, in Misrata [province], causing the death of two Egyptian citizens and wounding two others," official news agency LANA reported. "The explosion happened after the mass ended and people were on their way out." There were an estimated 1.5 million Egyptians living and working in Libya before the 2011 revolution. About two-thirds left during the war but many returned in 2012.
Clashes between opponents and supporters of President Mohamed Morsi were reported throughout Egypt Nov. 23, as protesters filled the streets to decry Morsi's decree exempting his decisions from legal challenge until a new parliament is elected. Street-fighting erupted in the governorates of Alexandria, Ismailia, Assiut, Port-Said, Suez, Mahalla, Damietta, Daqahilya, Menya and Aswan. Protesters attacked Muslim Brotherhood offices in several cities, including Alexandria. In Cairo's Tahrir Square, thousands chanted "Morsi is Mubarak, revolution everywhere!" When police tried to clear the square with tear-gas, protesters fought back with hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails. At least 18 were injured across the country.
The jihad against a non-existent "film" produced by non-existent "Jews" continues to claim lives, with the most recent attack Sept. 23 launched by militants in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on Israeli troops guarding the border, killing one and wounding another. AFP informs us that an outfit calling itself Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (Partisans of Jerusalem) took credit for the attack, calling it a "Disciplinary Invasion Against those who Dared Against the Beloved Prophet." The statement posted on Islamist websites read: "As the defence of the honour of the Messenger of Allah is one of our duties and responsibilities, your brothers...carried their weapons and became determined to discipline the Jews for their heinous acts." Hey, read the small print, willya Ansar Bait al-Maqdis? "The Jews" had nothing to do with this one—the non-existent "film" (really just a "trailer" on YouTube) was produced by a Coptic Christian who cynically assumed the fabricated identity of an Israeli-American, and falsely claimed to have Jewish financial backers. Talk about "Anti-Semitism without Jews."
Our hopes that with this eleventh anniversary of 9-11 the world was finally moving on from the dystopian dialectic of jihad-versus-GWOT have sure been dashed over the past few days. Since the 11th itself saw twin clashes at the US embassy in Cairo and the US consulate Benghazi, violence and protests ostensibly sparked by the Islamophobic "film trailer" (for a film that likely doesn't even exist) have now spread to Yemen, Tunisia, Iraq and Iran. The US has dispatched two destroyers armed with Cruise missiles to the coast of Libya, as well as a special Marines unit called the Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team (FAST) to protect the diplomatic corps there, and an FBI team to investigate the Benghazi attack that left dead the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, two Navy SEALS and a computer technician. The affair has notoriously become a political football at home, with Romney baiting Obama for "apologizing" for American power, even as Obama wields ultra-nationalist rhetoric about how "We are the one indispensible power in the world." (Pretty out of wack, eh?) The White House even officially disavowed a perfectly sensible statement issued by the embassy in Cairo condemning the film as the work of "misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims." The capitulation came after Charles Krauthammer baited on Fox News: "That's a hostage statement. That's a mob of al-Qaeda sympathizers in Egypt, forcing the United States into making a statement essentially of apology, on 9-11 of all days, for something of which we are not responsible." This despite the fact (although its is unclear that Krauthammer knew it) that the statement was issued before the embassy was mobbed. Oh well, so much for moving on. (Al Jazeera, WP, CNN, Sept. 13; CBS, ABC Political Punch, PolitiFact, Sept. 12)
Uh-oh. We had just taken heart that the 9-11 anniversary in New York was low-key and uneventful. And now we just got news that hearkens back to the 2010 anniversary, with its depressing controversy over some wacky preacher's threat to do a mass Koran burning, sparking deadly violence in Afghanistan. Now BBC News reports that a US official was killed when the consulate was overrun by protesters in Benghazi—over some wacky film dissing the Prophet Mohammed produced by some stateside Islamophobic idiots. There were similar protests at the US embassy in Cairo, where the situation is especially depressing because a rumor (based on a slim kernel of truth) seems to have implicated the Coptic Christians, who were already in a precarious situation in Egypt. Background is provided the New York Times' The Lede blog, which also notes that Terry Jones makes cameo in the ugly affair...