It was a YouTube movie trailer that no one knew about. That is, until radical Salafis decided to draw everyone’s attention to it. Already, people have died who had nothing to do with the film — and the repercussions of all of this will go on for years to come. It’s a tragedy — one that can either be harnessed for good, or can continue to wreak havoc.
From the outset, a few facts need to be clarified in order to place this into its correct context. An Israeli real-estate developer in California, Sam Bacile, produced the little-known film, for which a 14-minute trailer was posted on YouTube. In a telephone interview with the Associated Press, Bacile said, “Islam is a cancer” and claimed that the film was intended to be a “provocative political statement condemning the religion.” These are the facts as we have them at present, although questions are being raised about precisely who this filmmaker is.
None of that is going to really matter today, however. What will matter is the reaction: in Benghazi on Tuesday, the U.S. consulate was attacked, reportedly led by the same radical Salafi elements that have been going on a rampage in the past few months (and longer) against the mausoleums of Muslim saints in Libya. The attack resulted in the deaths of three U.S. embassy staff members and the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens. There is no confusion in that characterization — these elements were armed.
This is what opaque, unaccountable, monarchic rule looks like. The way this was done is not a way that gives any transparency. If you’re another senior prince or another senior businessman, you don’t know what you can do to avoid a similar fate.