The Cairo Embassy Statement: Context is Important

12 September 2012

We know about the tribulations of the past few days. We heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s fierce and yet mournful statement announcing the murder of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi. Before the ashes had settled in Benghazi, and before President Obama delivered his remarks to the nation on September 12, Mitt Romney chose to hold a media party and denounce the President.

Romney has taken flak for both the crassness of his posturing and the inaccuracy of his remarks. That he viewed this as an opportune time to rail against Obama is further evidenced by the fact that Romney chased away a small group of supporters at a planned meeting and invited in the press to record his remarks.

Romney strode onto an impromptu stage in Mandarin, Florida, an old-money suburb of Jacksonville, and derided the President for what he called a “disgraceful” apology to the so-called enemies of the U.S. Romney was referring to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. His comments have been derided by both political parties, the public and the media. His reaction was insensitive; it was arrogant; it was political suicide. But more than anything, Romney revealed his complete ignorance about the complex balance forged between the U.S. and its Arab friends. A balance that can be undone by a stupid comment or a stupid film. A balance that pivots on mutual respect and a recognition of the overwhelming influence of Islam.

Despite the media clamor over Romney’s ignorance, what is sorely missing is context. This element can explain the content and tone of the Cairo message. Context localizes the message, placing it in a sharp and understandable perspective. This is something that the Romney camp was ignorant about or chose to ignore. Context has been overlooked by the American media in its single lens focus on the Presidential campaign. But context opens a window into the events in Cairo, Egypt and helps explain why the U.S. Embassy there delivered its message.

Here is an excerpt from the statement issued by the Cairo Embassy office:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. (my emphasis added)

Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

Without looking at context, it is immediately clear that there is no “apology” in this statement. It is a condemnation of “efforts by misguided individuals to offend believers of all religions.” It also confirms a “respect for religious beliefs” and rejects those who “abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

When viewed in the context of another statement issued in Cairo by the Muslim Brotherhood, it becomes stunningly clear why the Embassy chose to release its statement.

The “Muslim Brotherhood Statement on Anti-Islam Film,” refers to the film produced and released on YouTube by “Sam Bacile” which cast the Prophet Mohammed in a distasteful light; a film created with the deliberate intent to smear and scandalize the beliefs of Islam. A film that conspires to set afire a furious response from the Islamic world.

Here is an excerpt from the Muslim Brotherhood’s statement:

The repeated abuse of the Messenger of God indicate the presence of hatred and bigotry in those who stand behind it, with ignorance, connivance and indulgence in those who permit such persistent abuse.

Thus hurting the feelings of one and a half billion Muslims cannot be tolerated, and the people’s anger and fury for their Faith is invariably predictable, often unstoppable.

The Cairo Embassy statement was issued in a volatile atmosphere and its apparent purpose was to counter or diminish the “people’s anger and fury.”

Imagine for a moment that you are an American stationed in Cairo, where the Muslim Brotherhood holds the reins of power, when this Sam Bacile trailer makes its appearance on YouTube. Understand that this 14-minute film clip has been translated into Arabic. Consider that Egypt, while transitioning from its Arab Spring, is one of many Islamic countries on the African continent and, most importantly, understand that theology will always trump democracy. THIS IS CONTEXT.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s statement should be read in its entirety. It is aimed at the United States government. On paper at least, it “condemns the violence and bloodshed” that ensued and called on Muslims to emulate Mohammed. It concluded with these thoughts:

Those who insult the sanctities wish to poison budding relations between the peoples, to disrupt the efforts to build bridges between civilizations, and to sow discord between the peoples.

How unfortunate that Romney did not have the wisdom to read this statement, to understand context and to keep his mouth shut. How revealing that he is unable to perceive the complexities involved and instead fans the flames of hatred. He should never hold public office. Certainly, he should never be President of the U.S. If this were to occur, I can only imagine catastrophic consequences.

Read the complete Muslim Brotherhood Statement here:

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