American embassies and consulates around the world are under siege. While there are all sorts of reasons being given for the uprisings, the predomiante reason is a video that maligned the Prophet Mohammed.
Many Americans do not believe the riots could have taken place without a lot of planning. But personal experiences tell me otherwise. While stationed in Tripoli a few actions brought on quick reaction. While in downtown Tripoli with my replacement and several friends, we were walking to catch a bus back to the base. It was in the middle of the afternoon and the streets of Tripoli were empty. We came upon a lady in a burka. My replacement gave a wolf whistle. Men came from everywhere as a response to the whistle. Never had I been so happy to see an Air Police station and armed policemen. The men who reacted to the wolf whistle were not called by a prophet; they reacted.
The American reaction to what is going on overseas causes me some consternation. We have forgotten about some of the riots in both our own national history and in our religious heritage. We Christians have had a rather long history of doing some pretty awful things in defense of our beliefs, yet we are quick to condemn the Islamic religion and its followers for some of the same kind of reactions.
Let’s face it: the Crusades was no love fest between Christians and Muslims. While the Crusades were against those in the Holy Land, we Christians carried out the Inquisition. Was there a difference between that activity and the Muslims protesting acts against their faith today?
Thinking of protests in more modern times, do Americans remember the riots and protests of the 1960s and 1970s? We saw buildings on campuses across America being shut down and buildings burned. We saw the American flag being burned and flown upside down. Were those Americans rioting against their government or were they only a small percentage of the people? Were the protests against what the American officials said or did? It is important to remember that the protestors were all Americans – but they did not represent the thinking of all Americans. Many of thse protests were spontaneous; they did not involve some great event or speech. It was the outpouring of cumulative emotion. Many of the protests began as civil disobedience, but they escalated into some violent actions. The old adage of there are no cowards in a mob certainly proves that marches can turn into violence.
What we must understand is that this is a different world from 10 or 20 years ago. A comment spoken now is around the world almost instantaneously. There is no time for analysis, but there is time for rioting. Exhortations by anyone can now create crowds of people. Just as the riots of our 1960s and ’70s were not representative of all Americans, so the riots now in the Middle East and Southeast Asia are not representative of all those citizens.
We must remember that our past has not been free of the same kind of activities. It just happened to be us. Does it make it right? No. But we must remember.
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