by Michael Matza
Widely denounced as despicable and offensive, the anti-Muslim video linked to Tuesday’s violence in the Middle East has “all the haters feeding off each other,” said Marwan Kreidie, director of the Philadelphia Arab-American Development Corporation. “The consequences, however unjustified, are that people get killed.”
Kreidie’s nonprofit group provides immigration, health-care, and language support for the estimated 30,000 to 50,000 Arab Americans in Southeastern Pennsylvania, many of whom felt unique pressure to comment after the riots in Cairo and Benghazi.
“People keep asking me to respond in my capacity as an American Muslim,” said Amara Chaudhry, civil rights director for the Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “I’m simply responding as a human being who is mourning a tragic and unnecessary loss of life.”
Because the California filmmaker, identified as Sam Bacile, claims a connection to Israel and funding from Jewish backers, the Jewish state and its supporters felt compelled to comment too.
Numerous questions have been raised about the actual authorship of the film, Innocence of Muslims.
“Anything [Bacile] did – he is not doing it for Israel, or with Israel, or through Israel in any way,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman in Israel told reporters.
Yaron Sideman, the newly arrived consul-general of Israel in Philadelphia, said his country “shares the grief of the American people” in the deaths of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and three embassy personnel.
“The fact that these attacks took place exactly 11 years from the 9/11 attacks indicates that this is a long and difficult battle against terrorists who believe in sowing death and destruction,” Sideman said.
Philadelphia civic leader Sam Katz, himself a sometime filmmaker, and strong supporter of Israel, said extremists never lack for provocation.
“When Salman Rushdie wrote Satanic Verses, the fundamentalist Arab world marked him for assassination. The cartoon that appeared in Denmark depicting Muhammad in some offensive way, that caused such a ruckus” and deadly protests. “These are basically trumped-up justifications for the violence,” he said. “It’s not about a book, a film, or a cartoon. It’s about Western culture.”