For all the debate over what sparked the ongoing violent demonstrations across the Islamic world, writer Barry Rubin points out that such a violent reaction to a contrived provocation is nothing new.
It's about Islamists seeking power by fostering hatred of the West, he writes, and "not some act of Islamophobia."
"As long as free speech exists in the West, there will always be events that provide pretexts for outrage. Radical Islamists will make sure that even the most obscure of events can be used," Rubin writes.
So it's not surprising to see calls for the United States to restrict speech that offends Muslim sensibilities, from a Muslim Brotherhood minister in Cairo to the cleric at one of America's largest mosques.
For Islamists throughout the world, there's little to lose in fanning the flames of hatred against the West. "The Brotherhood regime would like to figure out a way to prove it hates the United States without any cost. Now it knows how to do so," Rubin writes. "Let the radicals go into the embassy with no interference by the security forces, and the Obama administration will still give it $1.6 billion (including security assistance to an army now controlled by the Brotherhood!), help it buy two German submarines, plan to cancel $1 billion in debt, and make its president an honored guest at the White House."
There's no shortage of causes to trigger violent mobs. Egypt increasingly is focused on the imprisonment of blind Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman – convicted of plotting real terror attacks in New York City – and hatred of Israel is an easy rallying cry. Protests get the media coverage, Rubin writes, but incitement takes place every day in schools, mosques and in Arabic media.
While those storming U.S. diplomatic outposts represent a relative handful in the total population, Rubin concludes, it would be a mistake to dismiss the past week as a brief, but passing crisis.
"This is not a theological dispute. This is not a therapy session. This is not a contest to say the right things so you get invited to a Washington dinner party. It is a political struggle for power in which the losers end up dead or fleeing into exile or having their diplomats shot dead."