How should we treat the 77-year-old Egyptian behind the Innocence of Muslims film?

As more details have come out about the men behind the anti-Islam video that enraged parts of the Muslim world (see protest at right), it’s become clear that they’re devotees of Zakaria Boutros, a fiery 77-year-old Egyptian priest who for years has been on a mission to discredit Islam and its Prophet Muhammad. Nervana Mahmoud writes in Al-Monitor that the best way for Muslims to handle Boutros is through a "rational, mature, intellectual response and not blind anger."

Al-Monitor has culled the smartest - and most provocative - media reactions to this month’s sometimes-violent protests against US embassies across the Middle East. For instance,

  • Semi Idiz of Milliyet (our Turkish media partner) points out that the protests were smaller than most people realized, and represent a small fringe.
  • Khalil al-Anani of Al-Hayat says that socioeconomics — much more than religionexplains the protests.
  • Jytte Klausen of Foreign Affairs warns that Egypt’s president is playing dangerous power games by fanning the flames of outrage against the anti-Islam video.
Take a look at our full round-up of opinions and analysis from the U.S., Europe, and the Middle East.

The New York Post has a video of a protester who attempted to spray-paint over a controversial new anti-Muslim subway ad that reads, “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad”:

A Post camera crew captured the bizarre conflict between suspect Mona Eltahawy, 45, and a woman defending the ads.

“Mona, do you think you have the right to do this?” said Pamela Hall, holding a mounted camera as she tried to block the barrage of spray paint.

“I do actually,” Eltahawy calmly responded. “I think this is freedom of expression, just as this is freedom of expression.”

Hall then thrusts herself between Eltahawy’s spray paint and the poster.

Why aren’t Iranians protesting against the U.S.?

Even as the Iranian Supreme Leader (right) condemned the Innocence of  Muslims film and blamed the US for its production, protests against the U.S. have not spread through Iran the way they have elsewhere in the region. Ambassador Seyed Hossein Mousavian analyzes why in an exclusive essay for today’s Al-Monitor.

TODAY AT 10AM EST: What did Tunisia learn from US embassy protests?

Today at 10AM eastern time, Al-Monitor Europe & Middle East correspondent Sophie Claudet will take your questions on Reddit about her interview with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki(We’ll post a direct link here then, as well as on our twitter @almonitor.)

UPDATED: Direct link to chat is here.

She was there the day Tunisia was in high alert over a possible attack on the French embassy following the publication of anti-Islam cartoons in France — but unlike when protesters stormed the US Embassy in Tunis, an attack on the French embassy was avoided. What did the Tunisian security forces learn? Ask her at 10!

A revolution is easy, but governing a country is difficult.

Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki to Al-Monitor’s Sophie Claudet in an exclusive video interview. President Marzouki discussed the rise and danger of Salafists in Tunisia in the wake of last week’s protests — part of the aftermath of the outrage against the anti-Islam Innocence of Muslims movie — against the US embassy in Tunis.

Sophie, Al-Monitor’s Europe & Middle East correspondent, will answer questions about her interview, the Salafist situation in the region, and Tunisian democracy tomorrow on Reddit’s IAmA channel. Look for her there starting at at 10AM Eastern Time on Tuesday September 25. (We’ll post a direct link here on our Tumblr at that time, as well as on our twitter feed @almonitor.) 

Al-Monitor’s Sophie Claudet sat down for this exclusive one-on-one with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki. Watch him discuss the Salafi threat to Tunisian democracy in the wake of this month’s protests.

Only when we respect other people’s religious symbols do we gain the right to defend our own.
Alaa al-Aswany, writing in our Lebanese partner newspaper As-Safir, arguing that Muslims who resorted to violence instead of free speech lost a major opportunity to respond to the disrespectful portrayal of Islam in Innocence of Muslims.
Hezbollah leader Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah made a rare public appearance in Lebanon this week, drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters. In an exclusive slide show for Al-Monitor, Preethi Nallu captures images of the crowds (which included many women and children, as above) who gathered to protest an anti-Islam video that has sent shockwaves through the Muslim world.

Hezbollah leader Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah made a rare public appearance in Lebanon this week, drawing hundreds of thousands of supporters. In an exclusive slide show for Al-Monitor, Preethi Nallu captures images of the crowds (which included many women and children, as above) who gathered to protest an anti-Islam video that has sent shockwaves through the Muslim world.

Al-Monitor's video team talked with several Islamist protesters outside the US Embassy in Cairo in the midst of last week's clashes. "What kind of democracy and free country would insult me and my prophet?" one protester asks (in one of the milder comments). The origins of the crude anti-Muslim video that set off the protests remain murky.

Mob in Tunis assaults Al-Monitor journalist covering Yemen protests


An Al-Monitor journalist covering the protests in Yemen today was assaulted by a group of Salafists. (We can’t disclose our reporter’s identity out of safety concerns.)  He said a dozen of bearded men surrounded him when he started filming a man holding the black Islamist flag. The mob told him he represented the “media of Satan.”

From the full harrowing account over at Al-Monitor:

…[A]s he was trying to pull out the tape which got stuck inside the camera, he was punched several times, pulled around, and his camera thrown in a puddle and destroyed. The beating continued for a few minutes and his T-shirt was torn and his bag ripped apart.

The people of Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia did not trade the tyranny of a dictator for the tyranny of a mob.
A somber Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at the transfer of remains ceremony for four US diplomatic personnel killed in Libya Friday, calling on the people and leaders of the Middle East to reject mob violence.
Nafeesa Syeed is reporting from Yemen for Al-Monitor, where police near the US embassy are using tear gas and water cannons to try and subdue the protests:

A group of young men held homemade posters with proclamations written in marker. In English, one of their signs said: “This is not freedom of speech or expression! It is offense on Prophet Mohammed! It is untruth! No to lie at distortion. Prophet of Allah: Mohammed.”

Nafeesa Syeed is reporting from Yemen for Al-Monitor, where police near the US embassy are using tear gas and water cannons to try and subdue the protests:

A group of young men held homemade posters with proclamations written in marker. In English, one of their signs said: “This is not freedom of speech or expression! It is offense on Prophet Mohammed! It is untruth! No to lie at distortion. Prophet of Allah: Mohammed.”

The Sam Bacile mystery, day 4

Laura Rozen continues her excellent work following the ever-evolving mystery of “Sam Bacile,” the fictional name used by the filmmaker of the anti-Islam “Innocence of Muslims” film that’s incited so much violence this week.  

A harrowing account from inside the US embassy protests in Yemen, where journalist Benjamin Wiacek was assaulted by security forces in front of his wife and other colleagues:

They did not seem to care and tried to take my video camera from my hands as they entered the shop. My colleagues were scared but the guys continued to scream at me, saying they wanted the camera. My wife tried to intervene, explaining I was a journalist, but they pushed her away. My camera fell on the floor as I was trying to protect myself from the soldiers.

Read his full account for Al-Monitor's main site.

A harrowing account from inside the US embassy protests in Yemen, where journalist Benjamin Wiacek was assaulted by security forces in front of his wife and other colleagues:

They did not seem to care and tried to take my video camera from my hands as they entered the shop. My colleagues were scared but the guys continued to scream at me, saying they wanted the camera. My wife tried to intervene, explaining I was a journalist, but they pushed her away. My camera fell on the floor as I was trying to protect myself from the soldiers.

Read his full account for Al-Monitor's main site.