Beware Lazy Stereotyping in Mideast Protests

Starting with 'those crazy Muslims': Robert Wright
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 14, 2012 4:40 PM CDT
Beware Lazy Stereotyping in Mideast Protests
Egyptian protesters clash with security forces near the U.S. embassy in Cairo Friday.   (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

When the first Mideast protests started this week, the storyline went something like this: "Crude anti-Islam film made by Israeli-American and funded by Jews leads to Muslim protests that boil over, causing four American deaths in Libya," writes Robert Wright at the Atlantic. Already, we've learned that the "Israeli-American" identified as Sam Bacile is probably a Coptic Christian named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. His Innocence of Muslims film wasn't funded by Jews and it may have had nothing to do with the American deaths: Libya looks more and more like a well-planned terrorist attack, "not spontaneous mob violence."

The early narrative was embraced because it "fit so nicely into some common stereotypes—about crazy Muslims who get whipped into a death frenzy at the drop of a hat, about the backstage machinations of Jews, and about the natural tension between Muslims and Jews," says Wright. Expect more misconceptions to fall by the wayside—don't judge Egyptian leader Mohamed Morsi too quickly, for example, until you remember the minefield of domestic politics he has to navigate. And be wary of "letting simplistic mental templates continue to shape the story." Read Wright's full essay here. (More Innocence of Muslims stories.)

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