Much of the Muslim world has been roiled with anti-American demonstrations after word surfaced on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 about a film — made in the United States — that insults Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Riots broke out at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. In Libya later that night, the U.S. ambassador, Chris Stevens, and three of his staff members were killed during an attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
Three days later, anti-American protests spread from Morocco to Indonesia — and beyond. Even in Britain, some 250 demonstrators marched peacefully through London to the U.S. Embassy. In Sudan, rioters broke into the German Embassy and set part of it on fire.
The upheaval injected itself into the U.S. presidential race, which had been focused on the sour economy. Republican Mitt Romney lashed out at the Obama administration, saying its statements expressed sympathy for the protesters “instead of condemning their actions” in the diplomats’ deaths. President Barack Obama responded, accusing Romney of shooting from the hip because the administration’s statements came before the deadly attack.
The film, “Innocence of Muslims,” depicts the prophet as a womanizer and a child molester. Muhammad is so revered by pious Muslims that they are not even allowed to draw an image of him.
Clips of the film were posted on YouTube,which blocked access to them in Egypt and Libya after the first demonstrations, and days later in India and Indonesia, but it was still accessible in other countries. "We work hard to create a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions,” YouTube said in a statement. “This can be a challenge because what's OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere.”
Click ahead to see some of the fallout from this clash between the West’s cherished freedom of expression and the Muslim world’s insistence on respect for its traditions.
14 September 2012
An armed man waves his rifle as buildings and cars are engulfed in flames inside the U.S. consulate compound in Benghazi late on Sept. 11, 2012. While Stevens, his aide Sean Smith, and former Navy SEALs Glen A. Doherty and Tyrone S. Woods tried to escape, attackers opened fire — killing all four.
Stevens was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since Adolph Dubs died in Afghanistan in 1979. Stevens had assisted rebels during their successful uprising against Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi during the Arab Spring.
At the arrival ceremony for the remains of the four Americans, Obama said the United States will never pull back on its principles or "retreat from the world."
"Their sacrifice will never be forgotten," Obama said. "They knew the danger, and they accepted it. ... They didn't simply embrace the American ideal. They lived it."
Members of a mob of thousands of anti-American protesters tear down the U.S. flag at the American Embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012.
Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, went on national TV three days later and appealed to Muslims to not attack embassies. It was his first public move to restrain protesters after days of near silence.
Islamists burn an American flag during a demonstration near the U.S. Embassy in Amman on Sept. 14.
Kashmiri Muslims shout anti-American and anti-Israeli slogans during a Sept. 14 protest in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir.
A Yemeni protester waves a flag outside the gate of the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa on Sept. 13. Yemeni forces managed to drive out angry protesters who stormed the embassy in the capital, with police firing warning shots to disperse thousands of people as they approached the main gate of the mission.
A Sudanese demonstrator burns a German flag as others shout slogans after torching the German Embassy in Khartoum on Sept. 14. Around 5,000 protesters in the Sudanese capital stormed the embassies of Britain and Germany, which was torched and badly damaged. Witnesses said Sudanese police opened fire on protesters trying to climb the walls of the U.S. Embassy.
Tunisian protesters lower and burn an American flag on Sept. 12, replacing it with an Islamic banner outside the U.S. Embassy in Tunis.
Iraqi supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement burn the Israeli and the American flags during a protest on Sept. 13 in the central Iraqi city of Kut.
A man holds a placard praising Islam's Prophet Muhammad during a demonstration against the film on Sept. 12 in front of the United Nations headquarters in Gaza City.
Islamists tear down a U.S. flag during a protest outside a mosque in Sale, Morocco, on Sept. 14. Hundreds of extremists burned American flags in Morocco after Friday prayers.
Iranian protesters hold anti-U.S. posters as they demonstrate after Friday prayers in Tehran. Thousands of people yelling “Death to America” and “Death to Israel” rallied in central Tehran.
Protesters chant slogans as they demonstrate outside the U.S. Embassy in central London on Sept. 14. The group gathered at Regents Park mosque before heading to the embassy to protest the film.
Pope Benedict XVI is welcomed to Lebanon upon arrival at Beirut's Rafiq Hariri International Airport on Sept. 14. The pope appealed for peace and called the flow of weapons into neighboring Syria a "grave sin" as that country endures a bloody civil war.
"I have come to Lebanon as a pilgrim of peace," Benedict said, "as a friend of God and as a friend of men." But in Tripoli in northern Lebanon, one protester was killed in clashes with security forces after a mob set fire to a KFC and a Hardee's restaurant.