"How would Americans feel if films insulting the pope or Abraham Lincoln were produced?"—Zawahiri


Mohamed al-Zawahiri, brother of al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, says he called a "peaceful protest" in Cairo as part of the 9/11 anniversary attacks on U.S. embassies that left the U.S. ambassador to Libya dead and the U.S. embassy in Egypt in shambles. 

The putative cause of the attack in Cairo was anger over a satirical movie depicting the founder of Islam's life. The attacks in the adjacent North African countries, both of which last year saw secular autocrats toppled, came on a day commemorating the Zawahiri family's direct role in coordinated terror attacks that killed more than 3,000 people from more than 60 nations. 

"We were surprised to see the big numbers show up, including the soccer Ultra fans," al-Zawahiri tells CNN's David Ariosto. "I just want to say, how would the Americans feel if films insulting leading Christian figures like the pope or historical figures like Abraham Lincoln were produced?"

I believe the Catholic League's Bill Donohue can come up with a movie or two that made fun of the pope and the papacy. I don't think the Vatican gets a very fair shake in The Godfather III. (I also don't recall Donohue, though he has a sharp tongue, ever calling for violence against detractors of the Catholic faith.) As for Abraham Lincoln, the "Savage Curtain" episode of Star Trek certainly qualifies as an unintentional insult, Gore Vidal's Lincoln was adapted for the small screen without incident, and there was a movie out this summer called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which didn't look to be traditionally reverent. Scabrous literature about the parental legitimacy and sexual behavior of Jesus H. Christ has been circulated since the earliest days of Christianity, and as far back as the 19th century anti-Christian writers like Léo Taxil were producing popular sellers in Europe. 

But there is no real point in rebutting Zawahiri's stated claims about a movie. I'm not even sure the movie Innocence of Muslims exists, given that producer Sam Bacile told the Wall Street Journal it had a budget of $5 million, and that doesn't match up with the production value in Bacile's trailer. (Bacile's "100 Jewish donors" seem to be the real victims here.) 

The purpose of the attacks in Egypt and Libya was for the Sunni leadership to show it can unleash mob attacks against American diplomatic assets. (There may be some historical exceptions, but it's more or less axiomatic than mob attacks cannot happen without government approval.) That point has been received by everybody except U.S. State Department employees