The wave of recent attacks on Western embassies in the Middle East needs to be assessed for what is really going on. First, these mobs of individuals do not represent the views of the majority of citizens in those countries. Outside of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, we have approximately 200 young people of a population of 86 million rioting against police. In Tunis, Tripoli and Khartoum, we see, at most, several hundred people demonstrating.
While it may be that the disgraceful film clip posted online was an instigator of these events, truth is, these individuals are reacting to the same frustrating forces that brought us the Arab Spring – unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption.
When 60 percent of Egyptian youth remain unemployed, it takes very little to get young people to face police forces in frustration. Yes, we have had elections in these countries, but genuine political and economic reforms have to yet to be felt by the majority of people.
The sad part of this all is that an individual such as U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens understood these concerns of the Libyan people and was working toward improving Libya’s future. After Stevens was killed, Libyans took to the streets to protest against his murder.
These moments remind us of how a Benghazi mob hijacked the dreams of the 7 million Libyan citizens. Just like the anti-Muslim film that is propelling hate speech is not a reflection of the U.S. government, nor should we assume that small bands of protestors represent the views of these new governments or the majority of people in the Middle East. We need calm and better understanding of Middle Eastern peoples’ desire for economic and political development. This was the very embodiment of late Ambassador Stevens’ hard work in the region.