Today, Salafist leaders have called for a large march in front of the US embassy in Tunis to express their displeasure with the amateur YouTube movie depicting the prophet Mohamed saws and Islam in a negative way. Preventing them from organizing and peacefully demonstrating would be against everything we have been fighting for – freedom of expression and assembly. I assume they will gather and chant and burn flags and then run home to their Facebook accounts, wearing their Chinese made imitation Nike shoes, and drinking their American made sodas.
What if things turn really ugly? What if this march ends in tear gas, violent exchanges between demonstrators and police, flag burning, or maybe even an attempt to breach the embassy compound leading to live bullets and may be extreme violence like in Libya, Egypt, or Yemen?
Will we hear the usual rhetoric form civic and political leaders? Will we hear our president or prime minister apologize to the Americans for such barbaric acts of a “small group of religious extremists”? Will we hear condemnations blah blah blah.
What we will not hear any leader, Tunisian or Arab for that matter, is to tell the citizen of his country they are a bunch of hypocrites, that they are responsible for how the world views them, that they should be responsible for their own actions. That we cannot hold a country like the US responsible for the acts of a citizen who chose to express his views, however sick they are, when we are fighting for the same liberties in our own countries.
What Tunisian leader today is courageous enough and willing to pay such political price, at a time of electorate battle, and look his people in the eye and tell them what hurts, instead of what they want to hear? Such leadership does not yet exist, and it is exactly what our nation, and the Arab nation needs to survive, with dignity.