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Anger that erupted on Sept. 11 over an amateur film denigrating Prophet Muhammad spread throughout the Muslim world. Two weeks later, the unrest prompted a historic response from President Obama at the United Nations General Assembly. GlobalPost brings you the latest on how the story is playing across the Middle East, on the US campaign trail, and around the world.
Here's why you shouldn't be alarmed – or surprised.
NEW DELHI, India – Dozens of anti-US protests shook Indian-administered Kashmir Friday, as thousands took to the streets to express their anger – marking what could be the largest demonstrations in Asia following the recent attack on the Libyan consulate.
Meanwhile, stone-throwers in India's deep south broke windows and smashed security cameras at the US consulate in Chennai.
With news outlets lumping these incidents together with outbreaks of violence in the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan, it is tempting to see the protests in India as more evidence that the world is growing ever more hostile to Americans and American interests. But that's an alarmist interpretation of street action that has long been routine in this protest nation.
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“If you compare the current protests with the protests against President Bush's visit in 2008, those were far more widespread,” said Mujibur Rehman, a professor at New Delhi's Jamia Millia Islamia University. “This is really, really insignificant, compared to that. And of course it's not happening in the manner reflected in Middle Eastern countries.”
With the US State Department warning American citizens of another demonstration in New Delhi on Tuesday, and opting to close the American Center and United States-India Educational Foundation (USIEF) for the day, that could very well change. But it would be stunning if serious violence broke out.
Street protests have been the primary form of political mobilization in India since the days of Mohandas K. Gandhi. And although the burning of effigies looks frightening on camera, it's hardly more unusual here than a rush hour traffic jam. The only thing that changes is the flag and the sign around the effigy's neck. And more often than not the demonstrations — or even riots — better reflect the efforts of political parties to drum up local enthusiasm than a spontaneous outpouring of anger.
On the same day that one mob was throwing rocks at the US consulate in Chennai, another group formed a human chain, standing neck deep in the sea off the coast of Tamil Nadu, to try to block the loading of atomic fuel at the Kudankulam nuclear reactor.
A few days before, police had dragged another group of protesters out of neck-deep water in Madhya Pradesh, where they were resisting a move to raise the height of the Indira Sagar dam. Repeatedly over the past year, anti-corruption protests have brought tens of thousands onto the streets in New Delhi and various other cities.
And on Thursday of this week, opposition parties and recalcitrant allies of Manmohan Singh's United Progessive Alliance (UPA) government alike plan to stage massive, country-wide demonstrations against the prime minister's moves to hike diesel prices and allow foreign retailers like Walmart into the market.
“Whenever the parties head toward major national elections, they try to whip up this kind of frenzy,” said A.K. Pasha, a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University's Center for West Asian studies.
“Whether it is Mamata Banerjee in [West Bengal], or Mulayam Singh Yadav for Muslim votes in Uttar Pradesh, or the communist parties or other groups who feel they can pander to this overall feeling of resentment.”
To be sure, there is anti-American sentiment among Indian Muslims – who account for around 11 percent of the world's Islamic population, though they make up only around 15 percent of Hindu-dominated India. So here, as well as everywhere else, the State Department should continue to work to dispel the (widespread) impression that the US is fighting Islam.
At Friday's protests in Srinagar, demonstrators mixed their outrage at the “Innocence of Muslims” — the film that sparked attacks on the US embassy in Egypt and other protests across the Muslim world — with anger at America, chanting, “Down with America! Down with Israel! Long live Islam!” One demonstrator held up a placard describing Barack Obama as the “real terrorist.” And the crowd erupted when a young protester, his face covered, appeared at the gates of the historic Jamia Mosque, and set fire to a mockup of the stars and stripes.
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Meanwhile, in Chennai, as many as 4,000 protesters reportedly returned to the streets on Saturday, following the arrest and subsequent release of about