"INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS" PURPORTED TO BE AN ONLINE TRAILER for a film about the mistreatment of Christians in contemporary Egypt. But it included bawdy historical flashbacks that derided the Prophet Muhammad. Someone dubbed it into Arabic around the beginning of September 2012, and a Cairo newspaper embellished the news by reporting that a Florida pastor infamous for burning the Quran was planning to debut the film on the 11th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Then, on Sept. 8, a popular Islamist preacher lit the fuse by screening a clip of the video on the ultraconservative Egyptian satellite channel El Nas. American diplomats in Cairo raised the alarm in Washington about a growing backlash, including calls for a protest outside their embassy.
No one mentioned it to the American diplomats in Libya. But Islamists in Benghazi were watching. Egyptian satellite networks like El Nas and El Rahma were widely available in Benghazi. "It is Friday morning viewing," popular on the day of prayer, said one young Benghazi Islamist who turned up at the compound during the attack, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
By Sept. 9, a popular eastern Libyan Facebook page had denounced the film. On the morning of Sept. 11, even some secular political activists were posting calls online for a protest that Friday, three days away.
Hussein Abu Hamida, the acting chief of Benghazi's informal police force, saw the growing furor and feared new violence against Western interests. He conferred with Abdul Salam Bargathi of the Preventive Security Brigade, an Islamist militia with a grandiose name, each recalled separately, and they increased security outside a United Nations office. But they said nothing to the Americans.
In an interview, Mr. Gharabi said that he had known about the building rage in Egypt over the video, but that, "We did not know if it was going to reach us here."
There is no doubt that anger over the video motivated many attackers. A Libyan journalist working for The New York Times was blocked from entering by the sentries outside, and he learned of the film from the fighters who stopped him. Other Libyan witnesses, too, said they received lectures from the attackers about the evil of the film and the virtue of defending the prophet. (main link)
13 September 2012 BBC News
US consulate attack: Libyans react to Benghazi violence
Ali Farag, engineer, Benghazi:
I live very close to the consulate. I heard some shooting and soon afterwards I saw people running away from the embassy. I am very sad about what happened. We liked the ambassador very much; he was here to help us.
It's a very bad film and I understand if people want to protest, but there's no need to kill. We must also understand that the authorities in the US can't do anything to stop individuals creating such films.
Most people here are against these kind of attacks. There were protests going on today (9/12) - my son was there. They were not against the film, but against the violent reaction to it.
I am very worried about these hard-line religious groups whose ideas are quite different from the majority of the population.
We Libyans like foreigners very much and love welcoming foreign guests to our houses. We don't like to be told how to practice our religion. We don't want anything to be forced on us! www.bbc.co.uk