US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, Killed in Protests Over Sam Bacile Video

National Post reports that the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, "and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack on their car, a Libyan official said, as they were rushed from a consular building stormed by militants denouncing a U.S.-made film insulting the Prophet Mohammad."

Reuters also reported that there was no immediate comment from the State Department in Washington.

This news comes as the American consulate in Bengahzi — in the Eastern part of the city — was attacked by gunmen, killing one staffer and looting the building.

The Benghazi raid came only hours after protesters in neighboring Egypt stormed the U.S. embassy, and tore down the American flag. Some tried to raise a black flag with the words "There is no God but God, and Mohammad is his messenger."

Both protests were sparked after clips surfaced from an amateur film produced in the United States that mocked Muhammad. In Islam, it is considered blasphemous to mock or even depict the so-called prophet.

The ramifications of the ambassador’s death and the embassy storming in Egypt could be large: This may be a sign of new tensions between the U.S. and the nations in the Middle East, tensions which could very much play a part in the U.S. November general elections.

The killing of the ambassador is an immensely serious act, towards a nation that was fundamental in helping Libya become free.

The protests corresponded with the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on 9/11. 

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An amateur video sparked the protests:

The film, whose lengthy trailer is on YouTube, was written and directed by an Israeli-American named Sam Bacile, and has been promoted by the infamous and dunderheaded Floridian pastor, Terry Jones. Bacile is currently in hiding

Jones had recently plugged the movie along with a frivolous holiday he contrived called “International Judge Muhammad Day” on September 11.

As Egyptians stormed the U.S. embassy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement of her own, saying:

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

PolicyMic Pundit Alexander Mette gives a great run-down of the situation:

The anniversary of 9/11 saw violent demonstrations in Egypt and Libya against a video that protestors say insults the Prophet Mohamed. An attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya left three American staff member dead and reports have since claimed that the U.S. ambassador to the country has also been killed. In Egypt, protestors stormed the embassy, climbing over the compound walls and tearing down the American flag. Meanwhile, the video itself remains largely an afterthought on both sides. One young person who attended the protests in Cairo, where the American Flag was replaced with a black flag similar to that of Al-Qaeda, told the media that "many of the people here haven't even seen the movie. Most people came out to protest just because they heard that a video insulting the prophet was made in the U.S." The video and its fallout have added to an already tense situation in Egypt and the West and contributed to heightened fears among Americans of an increasingly hostile Middle East that since the Arab Awakening has seen the rise of several Islamist governments.

But the United State's official reaction belied the anger that many no doubt have felt as the events unfolded on a day where Americans remember the killing of thousands in the World Trade Center Attacks. President Obama condemned what he called "senseless violence" in Libya he also affirmed that the United States "rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others." 

The statement released by the U.S. embassy in Egypt denounced the video and the abuse of free speech to insult religion. A similarly thoughtful reaction came from Egyptians such as Wael Ghonim who urged Egyptians to express their support in a different way. 

Ghonim, a prominent activist in Egypt wrote:

"Attacking the US embassy on September 11 and raising flags linked to Al Qaeda will not be understood by the American public as a protest over the film about the prophet. Instead, it will be received as a celebration of the crime that took place on September 11."

Two videos appear to have sparked the initial outburst, one of which was produced by a young American named Sam Bacile. The film, which was dubbed into Arabic and played on Egyptian media and YouTube, apparently depicted the Prophet Mohamed as a "fraud, womanizer, and madman in an overtly ridiculing way, showing him having sex and calling for massacres."

The video sparked further tension because of an apparent connection with Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-born Christian who lives in the U.S. and is known for his anti-Islamic views. A second video, posted by Pastor Terry Jones, shows an effigy being hung next to a sign that reads "international judge Mohamed day." Jones goes on to accuse the Prophet Mohamed of murdering thousands, among other crimes.

The fact that these protests and attacks occurred on the anniversary of 9/11 should serve as a reminder of the continually growing rift between the Muslim World and the West and the vastly different view of the day which marked the beginning of a new era in the history of the West and the Arab World. In the West, a war on terror, and for many, a war on Muslims began in the wake of the attack.

Islamophobia is at an all time high and skepticism and distrust of the US is equally rampant. A recent Pew poll found that 75% of Muslims in several countries believe that Arabs were not involved in the attacks in September 2001.

Last year, a poll conducted ahead of 9/11 showed that one third of Americans believe that Muslims are more sympathetic towards terrorists than Americans and 20% of New Yorkers said they had a negative opinion of Muslims because of 9/11.

Neither extreme in this case can be defended. The misdirected violence that has left four dead cannot be justified even in the face of an offensive and misguided action that denigrates Islam. For our own part, this action represents only one in a series of acts of religious intolerance, brought on largely by the belief that Islam and terrorism are connected, a view that has been reinforced by government officials, authors, and others in the war on terror.

The widespread belief that 9/11 was orchestrated by the United States represents a serious barrier in rectifying our relations and the anti-Islam sentiments that have prevailed in the West continue to damage our reputation and the prospects for cooperating with new governments and Islamist movements that have taken center stage after the Arab Awakening.

As we watch in disbelief of the violence that surrounds these events and that surrounds September 11 we should applaud the administration for speaking out against intolerance and look for the voices abroad calling for dialog and restraint. The killing of the US Ambassador and three others in Libya is so contemptible because it scapegoats American officials for the actions of a few and because the attackers responded to intolerance with violence. We should make every effort to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice but to call for further violence or for sanctions against Libya or Egypt is to make that same accusation of collective guilt and to trade aggression for ignorance.

The danger, in cases of extremism, is that we marginalize the voices that should be the loudest: the voices calling for calm, respect, and mutual understanding."

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to properly cite language that was originally used without attribution to National Post. We apologize to our readers for this violation of our basic editorial standards. Mic has put in place new mechanisms, including plagiarism detection software, to ensure that this does not happen in the future.