Foreign Policy

[UPDATED] Egyptians Storm U.S. Embassy Over Sacrilegious Film, U.S. Embassy Condemns the Filmmakers

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Egyptian protesters scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo today, tore down the American flag, and replaced it with "a black standard with Islamic emblems." The protesters did this because somewhere in the world, a film is being made that damages the reputation of the Prophet Mohammad. The BBC reports that "the film which sparked the protest is said to have been produced by U.S. pastor Terry Jones and co-produced by some Egyptian Copt expatriates."

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo, a true bastion of American values, was quick to lay blame on those responsible for this awful act of violence Terry Jones: 

The U.S. Embassy said in a statement Tuesday that it "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims—as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions."

"Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy," the statement said. "We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

Last year, Michael Moynihan came to Jones' defense when the Florida pastor was criticized by his own government for exercising his First Amendment rights:

It would be nice if Petraeus and Sedwill would spare a word for the immutability of freedom of speech, no matter how lunkheaded or convoluted the "message" from Jones, but their reactions—merely attempts to calm the crowds—are both understandable and necessary. When a press-hungry lunatic, whose appetite for television time is consistently satiated by self-righteous members of the media, is providing violent lunatics with a pretext to behead civilians, it is hardly unreasonable to point it out that his "political statement" is "disrespectful." But in a media culture that demands apportionment of blame, so mindlessly displayed after the shooting of Rep. Gabby Giffords, it's rather important to confront those who hold the non-violent fundamentalist responsible for the actions of the violent ones.  

UPDATE: TPM reports that the U.S. Embassy in Cairo released its statement before the attacks began: 

Earlier today, officials at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt issued a statement that "condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions." The embassy said the statement was drafted and released before the protests. But the succession of events drew widespread criticism in the United States after violence broke out for appearing weak in the face of threats.

The embassy later said on its Twitter account that it "still stands" by its condemnation but decried the breach of its compound. But a senior White House official insisted to Politico that the initial statement was never cleared by Washington and disavowed its content. The embassy's account deleted its post-attack tweet standing by its words late Tuesday night as well as earlier tweets quoting the original statement.