Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Religious outrage can't justify murder

The murder of American Ambassador Chris Stevens in a Libyan riot sparked by an amateur video raises doubts about the suitability of Libya and other Islamic nations for the community of civilized countries. Stevens, who had served in Libya through the overthrow of Gaddafi and the establishment of the new regime, was a career diplomat and, obviously, had nothing to do with the offensive anti-Islamic video that sparked the rioting that killed him. Diplomatic principles require host countries to accept and defend their diplomatic guests and their sovereign property (embassy grounds).

U.S. officials have expressed outrage at the killing — though Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney attempted to criticize the Obama administration for not being harsh enough — but can do little in a country like Libya, where an incendiary mob can sweep aside all reason and sensibility. The rioters, who likely had little knowledge of democracy or the principles of Western civilization, attacked the U.S. embassy, even though the United States had no connection with the video that angered them. The rioters' outrage over a bit of video justified, in their minds, murder and destruction.

The United States has aided and defended the new regimes in Egypt and Libya and has condemned religious intolerance in all its forms. But for the Islamist rioters, the United States' very tolerance of religious diversity is offensive and damnable. Until all governments are willing to defend religious diversity and free expression of religion (and this includes U.S. allies Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan and others), the world will be unsafe and religious people, of whatever faith, will live in fear.

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