1. Fear of a Black Flag (or It’s the Salafists, Stupid)
Ordinary Egyptians, Libyans and Yemenis didn’t come across the latest insults to their religion because they spent hours trolling YouTube for Californian political-porn provocations. It required broadcasting of the offending clips by Egypt’s al-Nas network to trigger this week’s anti-U.S. protests in Cairo, Benghazi, Sana‘a and elsewhere. Al-Nas is owned by a Saudi businessman and promotes the extreme Salafist current within Islam, whose political adherents have emerged as a powerful challenger to the more moderate Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s de facto ruling party.
The dominant political current to emerge from the Arab rebellion that began in early 2011 has been Islamist, but so diverse is the range of parties broadly grouped under that term that it’s insufficiently precise to explain the political dynamic at work in the embassy demonstrations. The more important signifier, at the embassies in Benghazi, Cairo and…
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