On September 11, 2012, an angry mob stormed the U.S. consulate in Benghazi and killed Chris Stevens, the American ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans.
This is the story that everyone has heard. Muslims saw a video on YouTube. Killed ambassador.
Some people stopped there. The anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States is at an all time high: Islam clearly promotes violence since Muslims killed our Ambassador over a video! It is just plain sad to see so many people forming an opinion—judging a whole population with such little information. I hope that you learned more on this issue.
First fact: Stevens was one of the most popular (maybe I’m stretching the word) American ambassadors that had been in Libya for a long time. He spent a lot of time in the Middle East and his experience was recognized and respected. This makes his death even more inexplicable. Out of all the Americans in Libya, he was relatively liked, or at least respected.
Second fact: The video that started all of the protests in the Muslim world is titled Innocence of Muslims. It depicts the prophet Mohammed as a womanizer and pedophile.
Innocence of Muslims is an abominable video that breaches all ethical standards and any belief of religious tolerance that we have in the U.S. Obviously, we have been quick to disassociate ourselves with the video. When news of the protests reached America, reporters rushed to locate and identify the producer of the video.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula produced Innocence of Muslims using funds and materials from Media for Christ, a group devoted to using technology, especially DVDs, to further Christianity. Again some people judged immediately, sending hate mail to Media for Christ over the video. Yet if you research a little more, you will find that Nakoula claimed he was making a video about Christian persecution. If you listen to Innocence of Muslims carefully, the dubbing is obvious and badly done. Nakoula produced video that never even mentioned Islam or Mohammed, then hastily dubbed it before posting it to YouTube. The actors and Media for Christ had nothing to do with the religious loathing portrayed in the video.
This still doesn’t answer our question: why did Muslims kill the American ambassador over a video?
There’s a simple answer. It wasn’t about the video.
Stevens didn’t die in a protest by Muslim civilians. He was killed in a planned attack by an extremist militia.
In fact, Stevens may have known he was likely to be attacked on 9/11. A few days after the attack, CNN found a notebook in which Stevens had written a few pages of notes. In it, Stevens worried about the lack of security and rise of militia in the months leading up to his death. This confirmed what a source claiming to know Stevens mind had said earlier.
The mob that attacked the consulate fired a rocket propelled grenade at the consulate before storming it. This extremist militia had already planned to attack on 9/11—it just used the protests as a cover. Now we know that this is extremist militia is called Ansar al-Sharia, a terrorist group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, that planned and carried out the murder of Stevens.
We have this information. So does the newly formed Libyan government and its people. If they truly believed in making a free and just Libya, released from oppression and dictatorship, they would take action against Ansar al-Sharia and groups like it.
They have. Over the weekend (September 23-24), the crowds in Tripoli gathered in protests against militias and stormed several militia bases. The government ordered non-governmental forces to leave the city, and backed up this order and the protests with their army. Ansar al-Sharia officially disbanded, and many militias have been expelled from Tripoli. The people have spoken, and they clearly didn’t support the violence on 9/11. Even against threats from other militias, the new Libyan government has stood by its people. This may mark the beginning of the downfall of militias in Libya. And who knows—if Libya can rid itself of terrorists and extremists once and for all, then it could set an example for other Middle Eastern countries as well. One martyr in Tunisia caused major protests in 12 countries and the downfall of four regimes. In no way do I think Stevens death was a good event, but his martyrdom may bring about even greater change for the better.
Most Americans are guilty of passing judgment before knowing all of the facts—I know I did. We make decisions or form opinions with incomplete knowledge of the situation. Too often what we take to be cold hard facts is really propaganda or just partial truths. As a constantly-connected-to-the-Internet society, we have amazing access to information—I hope America uses it.
What do you think of the situation in Libya? Should people form opinions without the “full story”? Do we ever know if we have the “full story”?
My sincerest condolences go out to the Stevens family, his friends, and coworkers.