Remember this is about a movie trailer, it’s not about a destructive ideology that runs on hate. It’s about a movie. Just like the destruction of the Library of Alexandria was about a movie.
This marks the second week since the devastating attacks on the US Embassy and the American Cooperative School of Tunis (ACST), Tunisia, where I teach art and drama here in North Africa. We are still holding our breath.
Nowhere in our dreams did we imagine, all of us holed up in our homes, that the “peaceful protest” would turn ugly and migrate to our school, which is located across the highway from the embassy.
Our only updates were from head of security at the school, describing the devastation, the looting and burning through Facebook posts and phone calls. The news was heartbreaking and shocking; books, computers, toys, furniture, personal possessions and even the school buses, smashed, burned, vandalized and subsequently destroyed, all in the name of an amateur anti-Islamist movie, which none of us had even seen.
The Lower School library lost 10,000 books. The playgrounds were littered with shattered glass and melted plastic. Everywhere we looked, we saw hatred and anger. The acrid, smoky odor overpowered us. We were all brought to tears. This was a sucker punch; it wasn’t about the video, this was about feeling disenfranchised, envious and the opportunity to loot and destroy what wasn’t theirs. Little did these thieves and thugs realize, ACST employs many local Tunisians, and Tunisian children attend the school.
We reluctantly re-entered the school on Monday, just the staff and teachers, dazed and confused. We went through the motions of cheerfully cleaning up the campus, but this violation was irreparable. There was, and still is, a loss of trust for Tunisian officials and local neighbors, many of whom were seen carrying laptops and guitars from the school in the streets. No one showed up to help us, and that made us very vulnerable and still does.
There’s a dose of reality here, but not enough. The “thieves and thugs” clearly did realize it. They knew enough to make off with whatever they could while destroying what they couldn’t take. They had no reason not to do it because they knew that the silly American liberals would just replace all of it and then they can loot and pillage the school a second time. That’s how this game works.
The books? As a certain Caliph said of the Library of Alexandria, if the books contradict the Koran then they are blasphemous and should be destroyed. If they agree with it, then they are redundant and should be destroyed. But if they are Kindles then we should take them and sell them on eBay to fund the martyrs fighting in Chechnya, Gaza and Timbuktu.