Arab Spring or Arab Nightmare?

A Victory Institute Exclusive Op-Ed by Jordan Schachtel

After nearly two years of protests and uprisings, the “Arab Spring” label is beginning to fade. The chants of “Death to the Dictator” in Cairo and Tripoli were welcomed by Western academics as a spontaneous awakening of the oppressed secular liberals trapped behind an Iron Curtain of Islamic Supremacy.

Though the “flower of democracy” has supposedly bloomed in places like Egypt and Iraq, that didn’t stop the chants of “Death to America” and – sometimes violent – protests on U.S Embassies throughout the Muslim World, starting three days ago on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.

The unfolding wave of anti-American sentiment has Western presses bracing for the unpredictable outbreaks of violence that may follow today’s Friday sermons by enraged Muslim clerics eager to join the new phenomenon.

To this point, the protests have been relatively small.

The scenes in North Africa are troubling.

In Morocco, over 300 protestors surrounded the U.S. Consulate in Casablanca. Police arrived with riot gear and placed themselves behind barricades to secure the Consulate’s barriers.

In Tunisia, over 200 protestors attempted to storm the gates of the U.S. Embassy. Security forces dispersed the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets.

In Sudan, over 300 protestors joined in a demonstration outside the US Embassy in Khartoum.

In Libya, thousands of protestors stormed the US Consulate in Benghazi and a well-planned commando-style squad of attackers overtook the building in an assault that injured over 30 and took the lives of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, along with three members of his security detail. The U.S. Consulate burned to the ground. It is uncertain whether elements linked to Al-Qaeda may have taken part in the attack. Troubling reports have indicated that Libyan security may have given away the position of the Ambassador to the militants prior to the strike.

In Egypt, in what some say was a coordinated, well-planned rush, thousands of Egyptian protestors demonstrated against a video released in America which, according to the crowd, insulted the Prophet Muhammad. The crowd scaled the walls of the Embassy, while chanting “Death to America”. The American flag, flying on the embassy grounds was ripped to shreds, while placards bearing the picture of Osama bin Laden were raised along with the chant “Obama! Obama! We are all Osama!” Mohammed al-Zawahiri , the younger brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was reportedly sited among the Islamists.

The protests in the Middle East and Asia show that the trend is not Sunni-centric.

In Yemen over 500 protestors crowded outside the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, shouted Anti-American slogans and burned American flags. It took security personnel 45 minutes to clear the grounds using tear gas and at times brute force.

In Iraq, after a shockingly bloody spate of bombings left over 100 dead on September 9, the Iranian-backed Shi’a militia leader, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, already known to have participated in attacks on U.S. military personnel, incited violence toward America as hundreds protested in Sadr City.

In Iran, a crowd of militant Shi’a, numbering around 500, gathered around the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to express hatred of American policies.

Hundreds of anti-American protestors took to the streets in Gaza City.

In India, a swarm of Kashmiri Muslims gathered in Srinagar, shouting anti-American slurs.

Islamists in Indonesia took to Jakarta streets as part of a group called “Sharia for Indonesia”. They held up signs expressing approval for the original 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center.

Pakistani protestors rallied in Karachi, claiming outrage against the “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube sensation.
According to our liberal pundits, this video that depicts the prophet Muhammad in a negative light is to blame for all the uprisings in the Muslim world over the past few days. Really? For those of us who don’t live under a rock, the somber anniversary of the horrific attacks of 9/11 also just happened to mark the date of this new round of uprisings that have taken innocent American lives. Coincidence? Is it coincidental that Ayman al-Zawahiri recently called for the killing of Americans in retribution for the death of Al-Qaeda’s Yahia al-Libi?

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the film “disgusting and reprehensible.” While not an apology, by acknowledging the film as unsavory and painful to Muslim sensibilities, the State Department essentially legitimized the wave of protests across the Muslim world, empowering and enabling the Salafists to continue their attempts to co-opt the Arab Spring and undermine America to advance their agenda.

It was not by chance that our Founding Fathers chose the freedom of speech as the First Amendment to the Constitution. We must overwhelmingly stand up for and never be apologetic for our most important fundamental freedom as American citizens.

The United States of America has overthrown ruthless dictators, liberated Muslim-majority countries from tyranny, and has decimated the ranks of the most dangerous extremists of our time. In the fallout of these fresh failures of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy initiative of U.S.-Muslim Outreach, we are left with many questions about how best to tackle the violence veiled just beneath the surface of Islamist politics.

Is Islam compatible with democracy and the individual rights to freedom of expression and speech that underpin pluralist institutions of government among men? Has American weakness led to this round of intimidation by Sunni and Shi’a alike? Are we witnessing an Arab Spring, or are we in the West awakening to an Arab Nightmare?

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Jordan Schachtel is a Researcher at World Likud and an Intern at Wikistrat, pursuing his Masters in International Relations at LIU Brooklyn.