Brave Libyans Attack Compound of Muslim Radicals Over Death of American Ambassador

When U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed by terrorists in Benghazi a week and a half ago, the people of Benghazi condemned the attack. They gathered to demonstrate against the violence and to send their condolences to the American people.

But the protests didn’t end there.

While still angry about the insulting “Innocence of Muslims” film, the people of Benghazi would no longer tolerate the militia group believed to be responsible for the attack on the U.S. consulate. Friday brought a new protest which culminated in crowds of Libyans storming the compound of the militia’s base. A second militia base was attacked resulting in injuries and one death.

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While the attack on the Consulate was unrelated to the blasphemous film, the timing tied the events together in the emotional experience of the Libyan people. Yet, everyday Muslims didn’t just condemn the content of the film; they condemned the use of violence as a response used to intimidate and incite fear.

This is a dramatic moment and may mark a turning point in America’s relationship with Islam around the world.

About Ericka M. Johnson

As a lover of science and reason, Ericka M. Johnson has an affinity for evolutionary biology and is the president of Seattle Atheists. She revels in any opportunity for a thoughtful debate on the meaning of life, the universe, and everything (especially over a pint.) Follow her on twitter @ErickaMJohnson

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    “they condemned the use of violence”

    By storming the place, setting it on fire, and killing a bunch of people.

    • Philbert

      Says a guy who is only free to type what he wants because other people stood up against fascism with something more than sarcastic misquotes.

    • Fred Engels

      Had you actually watched the news report you would have learned that it was the militias that fired on the protesters. But good job at making yourself look like a…..

      And hell, even if they had, good for them. It’s about time they stood up for themselves rather than rolling over and pissing on their stomachs while the militias rule them like the hippies would like them to.

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

         Here’s the BBC report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19680785
        Key highlights include:

        surrounded by waves of people shouting “No to militias”.Buildings and a car were set alight and fighters evicted.

        and

        The two sides are said to have exchanged rocket and light arms fire for two hours before the brigade decided to move out.
        Protesters then set fire to one of the main buildings and pillaged a weapons depot

        You can certainly make a case that it’s good that this armed mob in on ‘our side’, and that’s better than the armed mob on the ‘other side’, but trying to paint this as any sort of condemnation of violence simply won’t wash.

        • Fred Engels

          Ah, so you believe the BBC over the al jazeera story why? The story linked in this post says many witness said the mob was unarmed. The Washington Post is reporting unclear who the victims where, or even who killed them (the army may have been involved too). But please, continue to make assertions based on rumors to fit your word view.

          For my part, as best we know some fucked up shit happened, and we have conflicting reports on what happened.

          • http://benny-cemoli.myopenid.com/ Benny Cemoli

            People in the crowd waved swords and even a meat cleaver, shouting “No more al-Qaeda!” and “The blood we shed for freedom shall not go in vain!”

            Vigilantes armed with machetes and clubs blocked the highway leading away from the compound, stopping cars to prevent looters from driving off with heavy weapons.

            It was not immediately clear who had started the shooting.

            Source

            I won’t argue the effectiveness of swords, machetes, meat cleavers, and clubs against guns but it sounds as if they weren’t totally unarmed and al jazeera admits that fact.

        • Philbert

          Nobody tried to say the protesters made such a blanket condemnation of violence, which is why you had to chop a sentence in half to make your initial post.

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

             Well, here’s this morning’s take from the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/sep/22/bodies-six-militiamen-found-benghazi
            Including:

            The Libyan city of Benghazi was tense after the bodies of six militiamen apparently executed after the storming of a base on the southern outskirts were discovered in a field.

            This was in no way at all a condemnation of violence, blanket or otherwise. It was a use of violence to achieve a political outcome. Moreover, it is a “use of violence as a response used to intimidate and incite fear”. It’s also worth noting that at least one of the ‘militias’ attacked was operating as part of the army under the auspices of the new central government.

            Now, if you agree with the desired outcome, you might still see these attacks as a good thing, but trying to paint the ‘good guys’ as plucky non-violence campaigners going up against heavily armed criminals is disingenuous.

            • Philbert

              Still missing the point. What was said was that ordinary Libyans condemned the use of violence in response to YouTube videos. It did not say they condemned the use of violence to stop fascists taking over their country and murdering diplomats.

    • http://www.facebook.com/chriswarr78 Chris Warren

      Yes. 

      they condemned the use of violence  ” – ”
      as a response used to intimidate and incite fear.” Context much? Paradoxically we sometimes have to fight intolerance with intolerance, violence with violence. This is not hypocrisy. The cost of violence due to religious offense has just gone up. Radicals are losing all pretense of support, and the people will no longer tolerate violence against the west in their name or that of Islam. I would also imagine that Islamic people are tired of having to bear the constant fear of American retaliation. This is an act of survival as much as it is noble.

    • Aaron Scoggin

      Killing someone who murders isn’t murder – it’s justice.

      • Scott

        Sorry to quibble, but killing someone who murders isn’t justice…  It’s retribution.

        • brianmacker

          Sorry to quibble but it can be both.

    • Lahj14

      You would propose the go and peacefully protest the people with sub-machine guns and no problem with using them?

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

        No, I would propose that people reporting and commenting on this tell the truth – that one murderous armed group attacked another murderous armed group. It does no-one any good to lie about it.

        You can be happy at the murders of people you don’t like if you wish, but have the intellectual honesty to be happy about their murders, not try to claim this as some sort of protest against violence.

    • Denis Robert

       By that reasoning, all Americans are violent, crazed lunatics, since there have been quite a few riots that involved killing people and burning cars. And so are all Canadians, since a few cars were set on fire during the G-20 protests two years ago. Right?

  • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

    Oh so they’re actively trying to drive the militants out? Looks like they read my comment on the last article and took my advice. We’ll see how much changes if they do manage to gain control back. I’m guessing not much, but we’ll see.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I wonder if they were motivated by a belief that the US would be taking some military action in  response to the killing of an ambassador, and they didn’t want “Afghanistan II” filmed in their neighborhood.

  • NewDawn2006

     I was quite impressed when I heard this.  I have always said that those who don’t believe in this jihad should speak up and be loud about it.  I would say this was loud and clear.

  • yohocoma

    While the attack on the Consulate was unrelated to the blasphemous
    film, the timing tied the events together in the emotional experience of
    the Libyan people. Yet, everyday Muslims didn’t just condemn the
    content of the film; they condemned the use of violence as a response
    used to intimidate and incite fear.This is a dramatic moment and may mark a turning point in America’s relationship with Islam around the world.

    It’s hard to discern any more what people mean when discussing these events, because interpretations are all over the place as a result of US political and media lies, and the shameful history of US manipulation and radicalization of Muslim peoples which is still not well understood by the Western public (see US blames Libya attack on Al Qaeda-linked forces it previously backed).

    Now that it is blatantly untenable to hold the “violent religious zealot” explanation for the attacks, we see writers like Johnson praising a faction of Muslims who ostensibly denounce the violence, as if the “bad, radical Muslim” narrative can continue by its opposition to the “good, sensible Muslim” one.  Reality is more complicated.

    As another commenter noted, something likely motivating these counter-protesters, more than affinity in feeling for the US, is the desire not to have their neighborhoods targeted by US bombs.  And the linked article reveals the depth to which Islamic radicalization is closely linked to US manipulation.

    Most importantly, “radicals” don’t exist in a vacuum.  They’re a reflection of social conditions, the layer of a society statistically most motivated to respond to depredations.  That doesn’t mean the social conditions motivating them don’t affect the rest of their societies, nor that the sentiments motivating them aren’t shared by the less radically active people in their societies.  Quite the opposite.

    I hope the unfolding of these events helps readers see that religious intolerance is a vastly insufficient explanation for reaction between societies that are so closely linked, in the most unpleasant of ways.

  • Denis Robert

    funny how r/atheism was all over the attacks on embassies, but I see no mention of this anywhere. It’s too bad that atheists as a whole have gone of the “all muslims are bad people” bandwagon and exhibit such selection bias as to be absolutely unable to acknowledge any information that doesn’t mesh with their prejudice. 

    Here we have people who collectively decide to chase Islamist extremists out of town and it barely gets reported. More to the point a number of commentors, not being able to process the fact that quite a few muslims are none too happy about a crazy minority hijacking their identity for their political ends, will try to spin this to claim, yet again, that “all muslims are bad people”.

    You know what we call people who paint an entire people with a single, simplistic epithet? Racist.

    • Salwinder

      Excellently put. I was in Libya during the summer and it was abundantly clear that Muslim extremists and anti-democracy types were NOT welcome in this emerging democratic state. I was really pleased to see the Muslim extremists run out of Benghazi – it set the precedent for he rest of Libya. It’s just a shame that the moderate Muslims of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the rest of Muslim world are unlikely to stand so firmly against heir own extremists.

      I too am disappointed but not that surprised at some of the comments here that condemn the Libyans for challenging extremism head on, yet criticise moderate Muslims routinely for not speaking out against religious extremists. As for those condemning the use of violence against the extremists, they should remember that Libya is not yet a stable democracy with an operational police force or army – the extremists are heavily armed and killing people. The average Libyan on the street is sick of it and for once extremism was met head on and defeated. Quite admirable I say…….

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

        “I too am disappointed but not that surprised at some of the comments here that condemn the Libyans for challenging extremism head on”

        To be clear; if you’re referring to me, I’m not doing any such thing. What I’m objecting to is the attempt to paint the people involved as nasty ‘bad guys’ on one side and nice fluffy good guys on the other. As I said above – you can be happy that a Libyan mob attacked and murdered some Islamist Fundamentalists, but be clear about what it is you’re celebrating. Doing otherwise is simply dishonest.

    • amycas

      “funny how r/atheism was all over the attacks on embassies, but I see no
      mention of this anywhere. It’s too bad that atheists as a whole have
      gone of the “all muslims are bad people” bandwagon…”

      Funny how you seem to be saying that r/atheism is representative of all atheists. It’s a little weird for you to say that atheists “as a whole” think all Muslims are bad people, seeing as how this article about the very story you say isn’t getting enough coverage is on an atheist blog. If you have a problem with something an individual commenter said, or a problem with what gets popular on r/atheism (with which this blog is NOT affiliated), then you should take it up with them. You wouldn’t want to paint all atheists as Muslim-haters, because “we all know what we call people who paint an entire people with a single simplistic epithet”*…

      *bigot, or stupid, the two aren’t mutually exclusive and they usually go together

      • Denis Robert

         It so happens that in all the atheist blogs I read, this was the very first mention of this story which has been going across all the wires around the world. Yet a post by a guest blogger at Patheos is the only place I see it mentioned.

        Whereas the original attacks were mentioned as the top of every pretty much every single media outlet, including atheist ones. And the vast, vast, vast majority of comments, here as elsewhere, took the tone that “there’s something fundamentally wrong with muslims”, and “damn those muslims, they are all a bunch of violent crazies”.

        And anyone who tries to being some level of balance to the discussion, by mentioning historical and geo-political context, gets shouted down as an appeaser. Yeah, I’d say 80% of the atheist community jumped on the bandwagon this time around, as it does everytime a muslim does anything bad. We should be different from the non-atheists, we should be able to see our own selection biases. But the reality is that anytime anything like this happens, the atheist community shows itself to be no better than those we criticize.

        And that pisses me off to no end.

        • amycas

           The only exception I had with your comment was saying that atheists as a whole think Muslims are bad people. Clearly that’s not true. I agree with everything else you’ve said though.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Da faque is r/atheism and how does it matter to me what they say or do not say about any given subject. What God gave them them the right to speak for me, or led you to believe that they speak for me?

  • anon101

    I did not really want to comment on this one but I feel I should. Nowhere in this video does it express that these protesters condem violence in general and not in particular because of the youtube video.

    You have to realize that Libya is still half way into a civil war. These protesters protest against the islamist paramilitary troups that try to fill the law enforcement vacuum that currently is in Libya. No less but also not more.