MADISON (WKOW) – Exactly why attacks on the U.S. Embassies are happening may not be a simple answer. One local scholar says the violence is deeply rooted in the relationship between the United States and the Middle East, not just a short movie.
The extremist groups committing the violence are the ones that get media attention, but as one expert points out, their actions don't represent their countries or populations as a whole. "The vast majority of Muslims and Arabs are very, very welcoming towards Americans," says Professor Jennifer Loewenstein, a Middle East studies professor said the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Four Americans have been killed in Libya and now a wave of anti-U.S. protests are moving across the Middle East. Loewenstein says she doesn't think American tourists will be targeted, but those who work for the U.S. government may be. "People in political positions have to be much more careful, or they're going to have to take higher security measures because they are a symbol of the U.S. government," she says.
Officials say the violence was sparked by a short video which negatively depicts the Prophet Muhammad. Loewenstein argues that decades of tense relations with the United States may have also led to such a severe reaction. "The movie ends up being a kind of provocative statement that is like a slap in the face of the Arab and Muslim world," Loewenstein tells 27 News.
Alex Hanna is an Egyptian-American student at UW-Madison. "It brought out extremists and those are the people protesting, I don't think it reflects on the majority opinion of most Egyptians," Hanna says. The Ph.D student was in Tahrir Square during last year's "Arab Spring." Now, both police officers and protesters have been injured during anti-American protests outside of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Hanna says, "I think there's not a lot of voices that talk about Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance."
Loewenstein says she knows the vast majority of Muslims don't hold to an extremist ideology. "But nevertheless, with the worsening of conditions economically and politically in many parts of the word, you see the rise of extremism."
Loewenstein would like to see policy change to better the relationship between the U.S. and Middle East countries. She suggests the U.S. take a neutral stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or remove itself from it all together.
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