Respond to attacks with caution, Valley experts say

Respond to attacks with caution, Valley experts say

by Michael Clancy – Sept. 12, 2012 04:27 PM
The Republic |

The United States should do its best to understand what happened in attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Egypt and a consulate in Libya before it definitively reacts, according to several experts in aspects of radical Islam and conflict in the region.

It’s just too soon to respond with sanctions, military action or other steps, they say.

Chad Haines, a professor of religious studies at Arizona State University, who has worked in Pakistan and Egypt, said blame and accusations will have anti-American repercussions. Policymakers need to recognize that both Egypt and Libya are still in the midst of dramatic changes after last year’s so-called Arab Spring.

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, a physician who founded the American-Islamic Forum for Democracy, said the movie is just a distraction. He describes events in the area not as an Arab Spring, but ongoing convulsions. In such reactions, “governments like ours will be collateral damage.”

“It’s a long battle,” he said. “Democracy is not a light switch you can turn on.”

While the United States should be cautious in its response, it should not withdraw altogether, he said.

Jasser, who is from Syria and has family engaged in the conflict there, said the civil war in Syria and the incidents in Egypt and Libya are all part of the same reaction to the modern world.

“This may wake us up,” he said. “The war on radicalism is not over.”

Sid Shahid, a Muslim who works with the Arizona Interfaith Movement, said the United States needs a strategy for dealing with the implications of the incidents.

“Some of these incidents are very isolated,” he said.

Matt Kuivinen, who worked as a diplomatic security officer in Afghanistan and Yemen, noted that without the host country’s assistance, there is little a security staff can do in response to mob violence.

Using sanctions, such as threats to withhold foreign aid to nations like Libya and Egypt, can help provoke a government response, he said.

Kuivinen, who runs a security consulting business in Phoenix, said most radical rhetoric never leads to violence, and that security officials cannot react to all intelligence leads.

“You can only cry wolf so many times,” he said.

Shahid, who has given numerous talks in the community about his faith, said, “This is really disturbing for Muslims in general, especially American Muslims like myself.”

Mohamed El-Sharkawy, chairman of the Muslim Community Advisory Board in Phoenix, said community members are condemning the attacks.

“This is not the way true Muslims believe,” he said. “The people who were killed were our guests, and they deserved respect.”

He said the Muslim community would hold a candlelight vigil in memory of those who were killed will be held at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at Moeur Park, Curry Road and Mill Avenue, in Tempe.