Someone in "the west" publishes something regarded as insulting to the islamic religion and "the muslims" burst into a flurry of violent riots - it seems like an eternal law of modern society.
And it is one big fraud.
Both sides in this game are political minority groups with a well defined chauvinist agenda that can be described at least as fascistoid in its components and they are more than willing to play this game of transcontinental ping pong. It is no mere coincidence that it was a fundamentalist christian group which caused the latest controversy with its production of a movie intentionally designed to insult the core-figure of the islamic faith as a child-molesting lunatic. Nor was it a coincidence that the reaction on the other end of the globe was marked by complete inaction for a suspiciously long time and violence struck only on the symbolic date of the eleventh of september.
But let's sort out this riddle one issue at a time. Seemingly on the start of this controversy we have a group on the fringe of the American political life, radical evangelists who desire a country whose laws don't just adhere to the bible, but rather whose laws >are< the bible. That these people assault the muslim faith as a whole seems blatantly obvious, given their fanatical insistence on the purity of their own faith. It is obvious that their politics are nothing more than leftovers of the medieval era. Or does it?
In fact, their brand of fundamentalism is a surprisingly modern ideology, although their agenda seems direct at all things modern in itself. They are rooted not in the medieval thought world, which is remote and emotionally incomprehensible to us after generations of capitalist "tender loving care". Their ideology is ironically the reaffirmation of the values of early modernity against the developements of later modernity, the defense of the ideals of christian protestantism against the complete dismantling of the social fabric as a result of the very same developement they had helped to birth into the world. They defend the values of "honest labor" against a world that is increasingly ridding itself of the need for such labor, even though it was the practice of rooting the economic developement and the source of value in this very labor that provided the need, not just the desire out of sheer coziness, but the very need to reduce the amount of labor needed to produce in order to survive. They defend the traditional family structure that has lost its usefulness to capitalism with the invention of the dishwasher, television and the instant-food.
And they also defend the system of national economics against a globalized production process. Their social romanticism, however, reaffirms the very categories that have led investors to consider expanding their business beyond the boundaries of their statehood. They believe in the "american ideals", they believe in the market economy and in the cunning and laborous individual who succeeds as a reward of his merit. Many evangelists have their Ayn Rand standing right next to the bible. Firmly rooted in the ideological base of capitalism themselves, they are unable to perceive the transnational upheavals, the decay of the national economies and the desastrous powers that they believe to have wrecked their lifes as those apersonal forces of market competition and all its unholy children - instead, the search for an outside source, a danger from beyond.
The muslim community was never the only target for such fears, but it has grown rapidly in popularity. Fears of an "islamic takeover", of muslim immigrants "outbreeding" other faiths, of a transnational campaign to make the western world part of a new caliphate are very symptomatic for such an irrational paranoia that borders mass hysteria. It is so succesful because it can tap into very real feelings of "life getting worse" in the wake of a rapidly advancing globalization of capitalism and because it does not call into question the internalized values of a capitalist society, which even the downtrodden and impoverished have blindly accepted as transhistorical "essentials" of human life in itself: labor, property, the state and nations. Instead, it attributes recent changes to an outside attack and in the process creates an almost mythical past it seeks to revive. A lost paradise that for the broad majority may "only" date back to the era of Fordism, which was never as joyous as modern nationalists make it sounds - while for the christian fundamentalists its the very distant past of messianic enlightement. Both popular and fringe version of this ideological developement are rebirthist, promising their followers that one day in the future their long lost days of glory and prosperity and salvation will return. Not unlike Mussolini promised the Italians the rebirth of the Roman Empire or Hitler promised the Germans a new Germanic civilization which, by all standards of historical science, never really existed.
Only on the first glance it is ironic that the closest analogy to this developement is, amongst the muslims, found in the shape of the radical islamists - the muslim brotherhood, the salafists and the theocracy in Iran. On a closer look, these developements are, if not mutually dependant upon each other, so at the very least symbiotic in their existence. The ideologies of these islamist groups and the evangelist christians in the euro-american sphere are almost completely exchangable, whereas the only difference is found where direct references to objects of their faith are concerned. Whereas most evangelists await the second coming of christ, the Islamists desire the return of the muslim caliphate and, in the case of the Shia fundamentalists which for example have shaped Iranian state doctrine, the return of the 12th Imam as Mahdi.
Much like their christian counterparts, the Islamists believe their countries under permanent attack by a foreign threat they need to resist with all available means. The "riots" in the islamic world are not responses to insults to their faith, nor do they represent a majority opinion. They are, for the most parts, well organized publicity stunts and designed to intimidate internal opposition as much as convey a message to the outside world from which the perceived threat to their existence and traditional society stems from. When the US ambassador to Libya was killed, it wasn't a spontaneous outburst of anger, it was a well-planned and properly executed attack by an organized militia force utilizing heavy weaponry such as rocket-propelled grenades and mortars and conducted with precise knowledge of the compound, to make sure their target was actually killed.
Days later, the people of Libya showed the world what was actually a spontaneous outburst of anger, but not in a protest against any "Mohammed-video" or caricature: they stormed several outposts of militia units, dismantling the bases and dispersing the militias, followed by a government ban on the armed militia forces. They did so at the risk of their own lifes, not just to readjust the message that had been sent from Libya to the west, but also because these islamist militias were a very real power factor within the political landscape and far from acting in the best interest of large stratas of the Libyan society.
But the global echo towards these events was embarassing. Few people took notice of this event and the focus was still very clearly on the violent "protests" in the muslim world - which were never perceived as what they really are, the mass gatherings of an organized political movement with a clear-cut agenda. Perhaps too easily this image of the "angry muslim" fits into the epidemic fear of an islamic invasion of Euro-America. A portrayal of the image that is easily exploited by anti-muslim racists in the western sphere, fueling their sentiments with further productions such as the infamous "Mohammed-video". Which in turn the Islamists in the arabic sphere gladly take to further their own agenda. Both movements mirror each other and their activities always strengthen not only their own positions, but especially those of their supposed enemies - rather their ideological brethren - at the opposite of the globe.