Life is rarely dull or boring in Egypt these days

Life is rarely dull or boring in Egypt these days

Egypt continues to make headline news in the international media. This time, in an unprecedented move, young angry Egyptians managed to climb the fortified walls of the American embassy in Garden City, bringing down the flag off the pole inside the grounds. That a few thousand angry protestors have rallied around the U.S. embassy has been nothing new since the revolution. It was the response of the security forces of both countries that seemed different. No one lifted a finger to stop them or bring them down off the walls Wednesday evening as they happily displayed the U.S. flag in their hands. Responses have since changed from that first evening. What looked like a spontaneous angry rejection of a negligible, distasteful movie trailer circulated on the Internet that was said to be insulting to Islam’s revered Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) could escalate into a threatening international crisis.

Timing seems to be everything. Within a few hours, news of a brutal attack on the U.S. embassy in neighboring Libya renders their ambassador and three of the staff dead. Then, the news from Yemen where angry mobs also stormed the U.S. embassy surfaced. By then, the media portrayed what looked like angry Muslims effectively attacking America. I can just imagine how the satellite pictures and the news were being received by ordinary American citizens. It is indeed sad that the world is so vulnerable and that the public everywhere is only allowed to see one part of the reality all the time. Wednesday just happened to be Sept. 11. The culprit trailer had already been in the open since July.

The sequence of events raises many questions. The sequence of responses raises even more questions. It’s the focus of events that is mystifying to me. Watching the news on Wednesday night, an alien must surely think Muslims only inhabit Egypt, Libya and Yemen. The attack in Libya appears to be of a very different nature and got a different response. Rumors that the U.S. was deploying marines onto Libya’s shores were circulating. If timing is controllable, then questions of organized tactics and maneuvers are quite plausible. The events unfold while a major business delegation visiting Egypt promises support and increased investment. Simultaneously, a possible World Bank loan is undergoing serious debate while Egypt’s president is in Brussels negotiating promised economic support from the EU. Ironically, only time can tell whether all was synchronized or just a string of coincidences.

The incident might have succeeded in upsetting some into initial emotional reactions like the few who attacked the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Wednesday. Accusing Egyptian Copts in the diaspora of producing this obscenity could have driven a wedge into an already volatile relationship. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and most Egyptian groups overseas and in North America were quick to denounce it. If anything, it served to create a bond instead. In a show of unity, a peaceful protest is being organized Friday to demonstrate Egyptian love of their religious figures and to show that they stand united in denouncing violence of any sort.

By the end of Friday, there will be clear indications as to where all of this might be heading and which way it will turn.