What now for Muslim-Western relations?
As protests over an anti-Islam video spread, we ask what should be done by both sides to stem the anger.
Muslim-Western relations are under the spotlight again after widespread protests over an anti-Islam video made in the US and cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in a French magazine.
“There remains this misunderstanding of the other …. Whilst we’re discussing a film and … the riots we saw on the various media, actually I think it is about neither. This is all about the dynamics of power, about a people that feel that they are still being seen as lessers of an equal. And therefore any criticism that is directed towards them or their faith … is seen as an insult, not just as a mere constructive criticism or something that ought to be taken in their stride.“
– Anas al-Tikriti, the CEO of the Cordoba Foundation
Western diplomatic missions in Muslim countries are on high alert as the protests spread.
In Pakistan, the government declared Friday a national holiday to allow people to protest peacefully. But there were clashes in Peshawar and Karachi, and demonstrators have tried to storm the US embassy in Islamabad but have so far been prevented by the Pakistani armed forces.
In a bid to calm public anger the US has bought airtime, to the tune of $70,000, on Pakistani television to run a series of ads.
Victoria Nuland, the US state department spokesperson, made the announcement, saying: “In the case of Pakistan, it is common and traditional to have to buy airtime on Pakistani TV for public service announcements. So in that environment, it was their recommendation that we buy some airtime to make sure that the Pakistani people would hear the president’s messages and the secretary’s [Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state] messages.”
The US embassy in Islamabad also sent out street interviews conducted with Americans to local media with one very clear message: that the video does not represent American values.
But, according to Blake Hounshell, the editor of Foreign Policy magazine, it is unlikely that an advertising campaign like this will make any difference to those showing anger towards the US.
“It is an interesting tactic buying TV ads on Pakistani stations,” he said. “I doubt it will have much impact though. These protests … seem to be orchestrated by hardline Islamic groups that aren’t really sympathetic to these kinds of messages coming from the US government. They are looking to pressure the Pakistani government and boost their own support base. So those aren’t the type of people who are going to be responsive to this kind of message.”
Are apologies and condemnation enough? Do these demonstrations have the potential to alter policies? And what should be done by both sides to stem the anger and improve relations?
Joining presenter Folly Bah Thibault on Inside Story to discuss this are guests: Anas al-Tikriti, the CEO of the Cordoba Foundation; David Mack, a former US diplomat; and Mehmet Kalyoncu, an advisor to the OIC ambassador to the UN.
|“I think the impact is going to be an extended one … because when people cross over from peaceful protests or even insults and then engage in violent acts, terrorist acts, kill diplomats, firebomb embassies, the reaction of my government, fully supported by the US people, is to close down those embassies. Right now students in Tunisia who want to get visas to the United States are unable to do so because the embassy is closed down.”
David Mack, a former US diplomat