"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims - as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
The quote is the statement issued by the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, in response to an anti-Islamic film made in America and circulated on the internet for the sole purpose of insulting Muslims. The content of the statement reflects all that is right with America, including our belief in religious freedom. The film reflects the hatred of a very small minority of Christians and Jews in America who are unable to tolerate people from different faiths.
The statement was issued by the Cairo embassy before it was attacked and before the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which resulted in the deaths of four Americans. The statement was released in an effort to persuade the people in Cairo that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the development of the film, and that our nation considers religious freedom a "cornerstone of American democracy."
Mitt Romney did not like the statement, and he seemed to be uninformed about the timing of its release in relation to the attacks on our embassy and consulate. He stated several times, even after being corrected by the media, that the statement was issued by the Obama administration after the attacks in Cairo and Libya. In fact, the statement was actually issued the day before the attacks took place.
Romney also labeled the statement an "apology" from the Obama administration. Of course, the statement could not be an apology for something that had not yet occurred, it was not issued by the president or anyone in the White House and the statement did not include any wording that would make it an apology.
Romney is behind in the polls and may have thought that the attacks could be used against Obama. But his incorrect comments attacking the president as our diplomats are being attacked around the world made him look uninformed and reckless.
While Romney was busy condemning the president, he failed to also condemn the anti-Islamic film or the people responsible for its development. To his credit, after three days of attacking Obama, Romney did finally issue a statement condemning the film. Interestingly, his statement sounded a lot like the statement issued by the Cairo embassy.
President Obama stated that, "We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, but there is no justification for this kind of violence." Indeed, there is no excuse. But, Ed Husain, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, helps us understand. "These are people who were born and raised in dictatorships. They are accustomed to thinking that a government controls its citizens - that a film or documentary cannot be produced without government approval. For decades, this has been the reality of their lives, and they strongly believe that the Western world and its citizens have a similarly controlling relationship between individuals and government," Husain wrote.
The Arab spring will not be completed in one season. And those who wish for democracy must learn that with freedom comes responsibility. Given the ridiculous nature of the anti-Islamic film, developed for the sole purpose of stirring trouble, it is obvious that even some Americans have yet to learn this lesson.