From the raging inferno in Libya, the protests against the United States of America over an allegedly anti-Islamic film have abated into a slow-burning wild fire. But the fire has retained enough ballast to singe Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and even Australia after the killing of the US ambassador in Libya and the violence in Egypt, Yemen and Sudan. Much of this trouble was perhaps anticipated. It is even possible that the predictability of mayhem is what serves as chief inspiration to provocateurs such as the maker of this film who reportedly has links with the Florida pastor known for his Quran burning spree. But it takes a little more than bad intentions, fertile imagination and hurt sentiments to create a situation as dangerous as the one witnessed in Libya or the volatility seen elsewhere. Without the help of a varied group of people in each of these countries who see it in their interest to drum up the anti-American sentiment, the agitation against the film would not have reached a crescendo. In Libya, the ultra-conservative Salafists have been honing the anti-West sentiment for months now through their attack against all things presumed to be anti-Islamic. The atmosphere might have proved right for the pro-al Qaida groupings to stage their dramatic attack on the US consulate to show their undying support for Osama bin Ladens dream of a global jihad. In almost all the other countries that have undergone the Spring revolution, radical Islamists, no longer fettered by the State, have been setting the pitch that the Islamic parties in newly-formed governments are desperately trying to match. To their aid the Islamists have social network sites that spread fundamentalist messages as fast as they do pro-democracy speeches.
The US is being warned repeatedly by Libya not to take the reverses to heart. But its unpopularity, particularly in Libya, where it helped in the transformation, is bound to add to its sense of powerlessness. The reverses in Afghanistan, the failure to influence matters in Syria or in Iran, and now the USs seeming irrelevance in the Middle East cannot be easy on a government facing elections. Its political challengers may be baiting the Barack Obama government to take on a more strident role in the region. But calm and caution are more preferable at this hour to fulminations about the USs importance to the Islamic world.