Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, she said. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.
Backers of the movie, who included Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of Qurans last year led to days of rioting in Afghanistan, were unapologetic about the role their film may have had in triggering the violence.
The fact that angry protesters climbed the wall at the U.S. embassy in Cairo today, ripped down the American flag and tore it apart further indicates the lack of respect that Islam has for any other religion, any other flag, any freedom of speech, freedom of expression and freedom of religion, Jones said in a statement released before the death in Benghazi was confirmed. It further illustrates that they have no tolerance for anything outside of Mohammad.
Even without the provocation provided by the film, the violence fit a pattern of growing fundamentalist ferment that has touched many of the countries where governments have fallen in the past 18 months.
That trend has been especially pronounced in Libya, where in recent weeks conservative Islamists have leveled mosques and cemeteries associated with the moderate Sufi strain of Islam, and car bombs have become increasingly frequent in Tripoli, the capital, and Benghazi. In what can only be considered ironic, the United States, which had backed the NATO bombing campaign that helped rebels defeat the government of Moammar Gadhafi last year, has warned its citizens to defer all but essential travel to Libya because of the countrys deteriorating security situation.
The protest in Cairo also came at an ironic moment: The U.S. Embassy has been urging companies to invest in Egypt, saying it is now stable.
Egyptian police did little to discourage thousands of protesters who descended on the U.S. Embassy and they stood by as the protesters first sprayed paint on the 12-foot wall that surrounds the compound, then stormed over the wall, where hundreds converged on the flagpole, pulling down the standard, shredding it and burning the remnants.
As the flag was torn and then set on fire, a man climbed a ladder alongside the flagpole and replaced the flag with one that read, "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his messenger.
Among the chants yelled toward the embassy was, Take a picture, Obama, we are all Osama, a reference to Osama bin Laden, who planned and financed the 9/11 attacks and whom U.S. commandoes killed on May 2, 2011.
"Say it, dont fear: Their ambassador must leave," was another.
Organizers of the embassy protest said theyd begun planning the event last week when a controversial Egyptian Christian activist who lives in the United States, Morris Sadek, released a trailer for a movie called Muhammad, which repeatedly mocks the prophet and the religion. The 14-minute clip, which Sadek first posted on his Facebook page Sept 5, attacked basic tenets of Islam and suggested that the religion had spread only because the prophet told those he encountered to pay extortion or die if they didnt convert.
Christians make up roughly 10 percent of Egypts population, and officials from Egypts Coptic churches have condemned the film.