The Arab autumn


With her daughter and her friend in the backseat of her car, she felt the uneasiness that came in the wake of last week’s protests in the Middle East as she drove home on the usually peaceful streets of Bahrain. Their generally lighthearted drive home from joy school took on a heavier tone during the peak of the unrest.

Nonnie King, an American citizen currently living in Al Jasra, Bahrain, moved there with her husband Brian and their four children in early fall of last year. The Kings have felt welcomed since their move, but could sense the anxiety caused by an American movie trailer that mocked Islam.

Following the attack where Ambassador Chris Stevens was killed, violent protests flared up at American Embassies throughout the Middle East. The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya has recently been confirmed as a terrorist attack.

Major anti-U.S. protests took place in Egypt, Yemen, and most recently Afghanistan and Pakistan, while smaller, less violent demonstrations appeared throughout the region.

The video that sparked the protests portrayed the Islam prophet Muhammad’s life in a way that offended Muslims throughout the world. Brian King said most Muslim countries are not familiar with the level of free speech found in America.

“In many of these countries movies like this could not be made without the government’s approval so it is easy for people to think the U.S. government had a hand in it,” Brian said.

Brian King said small protests in Bahrain have been largely controlled by the government but no action has been taken to prevent the viewing of the controversial video. The government of Afghanistan as well as other Middle Eastern countries restricted access to the video.

Middle Eastern governments are trying to limit protests to prevent violent demonstrations and many have shown support for the United States by condemning the attacks and protests on American Embassies.

In a CNN wire report the president of the Libyan General National Congress Mohammed al-Megaryef apologized for the previous day’s attack.

“We apologize to the U.S., to the American people and to the government and also to the rest of the world for what happened yesterday,” al-Megaryef said, “and at the same time, we expect the world to cooperate with us to confront to what is meant out of this kind of act of cowardice.”

Scott Cooper an associate professor in the political science department is currently researching international politics.

“One of the interesting things about this is the extent to which government leaders and even private citizens in the Middle East have expressed support for the U.S. in opposition to the rioting,” he said.

Muslims who disagree with the violent protests have held counter-demonstrations to show support for the U.S.

Response from the American government has been proactive and President Obama said to CNN, “justice will be done,” as he reassured the people that those responsible for the deaths of the ambassador and three other government officials will be held accountable.

Cooper believes the best way to handle this situation is to give it time.

“There is incentive on both sides to keep doing stuff like this,” he said. “I don’t think it is the end of it. I think with this particular event you just have to wait until its over.”

For those living in the region, the possibility of more unrest is worrisome.

“I couldn’t wait to get home,” Nonnie said. “You could feel the tension on the road even.”

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