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TIME: Cairo and Benghazi Attacks: Two Sets of Fundamentalisms Unleash Havoc

Author: Ashraf Khalil
September 11, 2012

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Two attacks on American diplomatic buildings in Cairo and Benghazi, Libya, illustrate the ugly bigotry of two sets of religious fundamentalists in different ends of the world.

Just past 10 p.m. in Cairo, around 1,500 protesters gathered outside the walls of the heavily fortified U.S. embassy in Cairo, lustily shouting anti-American slogans and promising, as one chant went, to "bring America to the ground." The sheer rage on display was somewhat curious, since half the protesters seemed to be busy explaining to the other half just what they were all so upset about. "So this was a film on that Youtube, right," one older protester asked a younger one. "What's in it?"

The younger man replied, "I saw it and I can't even repeat to you what's in it. It's so horrible."

The term "storming" -- deployed in initial breathless media reports -- is probably a little strong for what took place in Cairo. But in Benghazi, Libya's second city, Salafist extremists did indeed raid the U.S. consulate, attacking with heavy weaponry, including RPGs, and killing at least one American staffer and wounding others. According to the BBC, the building burned to the ground. The U.S. has issued a strong condemnation of the incident.

In Cairo, protesters scaled the wall surrounding the citadel-like embassy that sits just off of Tahrir Square in Cairo's posh Garden City district. They made no move to enter or damage embassy buildings, but they did remove the American flag from a pole that stood just inside the embassy walls and replaced it with a black flag bearing the slogan "there is no God but God and Muhammad is his messenger." That's often described as the flag of Al Qaeda, but is really more of an all-purpose banner for militant Islamists of all stripes.

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