A single hateful and offensive video has set half the world on fire. (Link to interactive map with remarks about each incident here.) But the video is merely the spark that lit the conflagration. The anger and resentment against the West that’s been building for years among the alienated, jobless, radicalized Muslim youth is exploding everywhere.
From their point of view, Americans have invaded and occupied their lands. We are waging war in Afghanistan, and war-torn Iraq bears little resemblance to the relatively prosperous country it was before the Americans came. What we call economy-boosting investment in foreign industry they call imperialism that exploits their resources. They are also exploited by their own people as a result of widespread corruption. In places where fundamentalist zealots like the Taliban are in charge, women aren’t educated. In many places they are excluded from the workplace, effectively cutting the potential pool of workers in half.
The young men can’t find employment, so they have plenty of time to nurse their festering grievances. In places where television and now the internet reach, they are reminded every day and in every way of how little they have of things most of us take for granted— clean water, decent housing, sufficient food and consumer goods galore. Prosperity and security are tantalizing but remote. They feel left behind with respect to the white faces in the U.S. and Europe and the brown ones of “Westernized” regions and cities in Asia that are catching up fast.
These are generalizations. Volumes have been written about each factor mentioned and many others. This is merely an attempt, as Sadakat Kadri said, not to justify the violence but to contextualize it with the very real plight of angry Muslims.