The competition is spurred by strident demands from smaller groups, including the Egyptian Al-Nour party — which won roughly 28 percent of the vote in Egypt’s extended 2011 and 2012 elections — and various overlapping jihad groups, such as al-Qaida and Egypt’s Islamic Group and Islamic Jihad.
Regional experts and some Arabs commentators say the upsurge in the Middle East has been caused by populist Arab political movements competing to be seen as pro-Islam and anti-American to Arab voters, who are eager to blame America for their poverty, unemployment, corruption and poor education. Roughly two-thirds of Egyptians oppose Obama’s reelection, according to a recent Pew survey.
The leaders’ condemnation of speech critical of Islam came a day after the White House asked YouTube to consider blocking the online video. Despite public pressure from the president, Google and its subsidiary YouTube on Friday declined to remove the film.
Meanwhile, federal police authorities detained the movie’s producer, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian immigrant with criminal record. Early Saturday, California police police picked up Nakoula during a midnight visit and drove him to a meeting with federal probation officials, according to The Los Angeles Times.
Nakoula is an Egyptian Copt. That is a Christian community which existed for hundreds of years before Islamic armies captured Egypt in 641. Copts are now only 10 percent of Egypt’s population, and many are trying to flee persecution from Egyptian Islamists.
In his weekend speech, Obama did not try to counter Islamists’ increased calls for restrictions on U.S. speech. Instead, he again suggested that the YouTube video was responsible for the recent violence.
“I have made it clear that the United States has a profound respect for people of all faiths… we reject the denigration of any religion – including Islam,” Obama said.
The president has repeatedly argued that his policies have helped reduce conflict in Muslim countries, and campaign officials have stepped up efforts to portray the president as decisive and effective leader on the world stage.
Obama has “completely taken the foreign policy and national security argument away” from Republicans, Retired Gen. Wesley Clark told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.
“He reinforced in Afghanistan, he got us responsibly out of Iraq. We took Osama bin Laden [and] he’s been firm, he’s been visionary… tough [and] decisive,” Clark said.
“President Obama picked up the phone and talked to [Egyptian President Mohamed] Morsi,” Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said on the same show. “As soon as he did that, the security provided to our personnel and our embassies dramatically increased.”