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Unrest could worsen

Rainer Sollich / dbSeptember 13, 2012

Violent protests against an anti-Islam film threaten to escalate further. Opponents of the process of democratization in the Arab World stand to gain from the attacks, DW's Rainer Sollich warns.


The mechanism is familiar and it is dangerous: extremists from opposing ideological camps provoke and attack each other - and trigger a destructive political blaze. The victims are those who decline to join in fanning the flames - as well as those who succumb to the ideological seduction.

This mechanism is currently at work in Libya, Egypt, Yemen and other Arab and Muslim countries. An extremist in the US makes a repulsive anti-Islam film, another extremist - also from the US - puts it on the internet in Arabic, just in time for the commemoration of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Immediately, extremists in Arab countries use this as a convenient opportunity to stage violent protests and deadly attacks on foreigners.

Insidious game

Clearly, we are dealing with a coalition of malice: people who hate Islam and radical Islamists may stand opposed to each other - but at the same time, they are jointly staging an insidious game aimed at provoking violence, strife and instability. It is evident who stands to benefit from this game.

In the West, it serves all those who always held the opinion that Muslims are prone to violence and fanaticism and are incapable of democracy, despite the Arab revolutions. In the US and the Mideast, it serves politicians who regard US President Barack Obama's policies as much too "Arab-friendly."

In the Muslim world, the conflict benefits anti-western demagogues who take advantage of existing grudges to further their own political agenda. The conflict also plays into the hands of those who have declared their opposition to the wave of Arab revolutions. Opponents of democracy such as Syria's leader, Bashar Assad, already profit from a changed media focus that distracts from their own misconduct and violence. In addition, they can hope that people in the West might increasingly subscribe to the view that, after all, dictatorships are still the best instrument in the fight against fanaticism and instability in the Arab World.

Responsible media

It is important, however, to bear in mind that the apologetics of hatred are hardly acceptable to the majority, neither in the West nor in the Muslim world. Here and there, most people have other problems to worry about. It would be desirable for this "silent majority" to make its presence felt politically rather than leaving the field to the fanatics. The media, too, bear responsibility. It is very important that they report comprehensively about the movie and the violent protests. But it is alarming when Arab media give the impression the film is typical of the West, and when violent protests by a few hundred fanatics comes across on western television screens as involving hundreds of thousands of demonstrators. Fortunately, that isn't yet the case - but it could easily happen during the next Friday prayers.