Ghaith Abdul-Ahad writes: The maelstrom of anti-western violence in the Arab world has little to do with an anti-Islam propaganda film released on YouTube.
It has more to do with decades of perceived western imperialism – and the organisational skills of the Salafis, known for their no-compromise, literal interpretation of the faith.
Such rightwing Islamists were wrongfooted by the Arab spring. For years, the jihadis and Salafis thought they had a monopoly on revolution and were the only viable opposition to the Arab dictators.
When the regimes were threatened by popular uprisings, the Salafis took weeks and months to respond. In Libya they initially called for the demonstrators to support the ruler of the land, Muammar Gaddafi. As it became clear that the revolutions would not instantly deliver the brighter future people had marched for, the Salafis began to use that discontent to their advantage.
They are brilliant at agitating on the streets – working on the unemployed, the frustrated, people who feel life should be better. In Tunis, the Salafi agitation began months before the propaganda film – the Innocence of Muslims – surfaced. They attacked cinemas, secularists and artists. In Bahrain and Syria they worked along sectarian lines, and in Egypt they launched vicious confrontations with the Coptic Christians. [Continue reading…]
In Cairo, protests outside the U.S. embassy appear to have lost support from the Salafists and a demonstration at Tahrir Square only drew a few hundred.
The Wall Street Journal reports: “Egyptians don’t like to protest this way,” said Hisham Al Ashry, a self-identified adherent to hardline Salafi Islam and one of the main speakers at the Salafi-led protest outside the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday. “They want to protest against America, they want to protest against the embassy, but not this way. They want a peaceful protest to express their opinions.”
Many self-identified Islamists in Tahrir Square distanced themselves Thursday from the scene at the U.S. Embassy. They said it was the work of nonpolitical hooligans who are often in their young teens and in several instances have joined in violent clashes with police after what started as peaceful protests.
“Egyptians refuse this,” said one of the protesters in Tahrir Square who called himself Abu Safiyan. He invoked from memory the Prophet Muhammed’s invocation to protect foreign emissaries.
Most of the crowd that could be seen throwing rocks at police officers along the Nile River a block from the U.S. Embassy appeared to be in their teens. Few were dressed like Mr. Abu Safiyan, whose long beard and starched white gown characterizes many adherents to Salafi Islam.