The outraged reaction of Muslim protesters to the trailer of a film that defames the prophet Muhammad -- and that may not even exist in full -- is both discouraging and dismaying.
The demonstrations have taken place in some 20 countries, and, in Libya, they cost the life of the U.S. ambassador and three members of his staff. The Libyan government has promised to work with the U.S. authorities in tracking down the killers and reportedly has arrested as many as 50 people, some of them foreigners, in connection with the attack.
There was some reassuring news when an amateur video surfaced of Libyan civilians rescuing Ambassador Christopher Stevens from the consulate in Benghazi and rushing him to the hospital, cheering "God is great" when they mistakenly thought he had survived. It is a reminder not to judge a country's people by the worst among them.
In those Muslim nations where our embassies and diplomats seem to be under regular threat by impetuous, irrational mobs, it would be a natural reaction to pack up our aid and emissaries and go home. The reaction would be natural -- but mistaken.
For us to dissociate ourselves or even lower our level of engagement with the Muslim world is to invite even greater problems in the future. ...
Other cultures not steeped in free speech might not understand that our government allows free expression, even when it is offensive to many. Our encouragement of fledgling democracies should include sharing the bedrock principles upon which democracy stands.
It will be a tough, thankless task explaining the concept of free expression to people who have never enjoyed that right, but that is not an excuse for not trying. We owe it to those who yearn for democracy, as well as to those of us who have long enjoyed its freedoms.
Knoxville (Tenn.) News-Sentinel