CHARLOTTE (CBS Charlotte) — Thousands across the Arab world held protests at U.S. Embassies — some turning violent — after Friday prayer in response to the anti-Muhammad film made in the states.
At the embassy in Tunis, demonstrators battled with security forces, throwing stones at them while police shot back with tear gas. Protests continued in Cairo for a fourth day as police and the Muslim Brotherhood tried to stop demonstrators nearing the embassy. And in Sudan, protesters stormed the German and U.S. embassies.
The violent protests are blamed on the part of the anti-Islam movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” which denigrates the prophet Muhammad.
Omid Safi, a professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, says that the people protesting haven’t even seen clips of the movie.
“There’s actually no reason to assume the majority of the people have actually seen the film,” Safi told CBS Charlotte. “Virtually no one has seen the YouTube clips.”
Safi said that once the Muslim protesters heard the movie was made in the U.S., that the government must have been behind it.
“What you have is a network of Coptic extremists who broadcast the stuff and it gets picked up by Muslim extremists who use it to justify their own agenda,” he said.
This is not the first time deadly violence has spread across the Arab world.
This past February, six American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan after soldiers burned more than 300 copies of the Koran at Bagram prison.
In March 2011, Florida preacher Terry Jones led a Koran burning which in turn caused deadly protests at a United Nations compound in Afghanistan.
And in September 2005, an anti-Muhammad cartoon published in a Danish newspaper unleashed deadly and violent protests by Muslims. Danish compounds were attacked in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and in June 2008, a suicide bombing at the Danish embassy in Pakistan killed six people.
But one main question persists as to why these protests happen by Muslims over something that is perceived as anti-Islam.
Safi explained that the people behind the violent demonstrations are small al-Qaeda-inspired groups and that we are dealing with societies in Egypt and Libya that have just gone through the “Arab Spring” and are not a finished society yet.
“It seems much more likely that local extremist groups are using this manufactured controversy and 9/11 to advance their own political agenda,” adding that this is a “fallacy of freedom of speech and Muslim sensitivity toward Muhammad.”
Safi believes that Muslims have a right to protest a “(crappy) movie” when Muhammad is portrayed as gay, a womanizer and a pedophile, but that there are better ways to go about it.
“They have every right to get upset, but how do you express your outrage?” Safi told CBS Charlotte. “There are more authentically Islamic models at responding to it.”