As Middle Eastern conflict continues, ASU student is affected

Anne Buie

Senior journalism major Lena Aloumari's father is stationed at the U.S. embassy in Sana'a Yemen. His embassy-issued car was damaged when protests broke out in response to a controversial video, "Innocence of Muslims." Photo Courtesy Lena Aloumari Conflict is continuing in the Middle East, but for one student at the university, the conflict is hitting a little closer to home.

Senior journalism major Lena Aloumari’s father is stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen.

There — and in Egypt and Libya, initially — the American embassies have been targeted by Muslim protesters. The anger centers around an American-made film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” circulating online.

“What started in Egypt and Libya has spread to Yemen, where my dad is,” Aloumari said. “The past year has been kind of crazy because he actually just was sent back to Yemen in June. During the revolutions of the Arab Spring, they evacuated him to Kuwait as a safety precaution.”

Curtis Ryan, an Appalachian professor who specializes in Middle East politics, said the film provoking reactions “is incredibly offensive, and was intended to cause hate or fury.”

“For many, it’s just the latest episode of overt disrespect for the world’s second-largest religion,” Curtis said. “Also, one of the main issues behind the Arab Spring was a pro-democracy movement against dictatorships that historically were backed by the U.S., with the exception of Syria and Libya. More democracy, even in an unstable transitional stage, means more protests. It goes with territory.”


And the demonstrations have tapped into pre-existing local grievances, Ryan said.

“In Yemen, the U.S. drone strike campaign has wreaked havoc with the al-Qaeda branch in the country, but it has also killed many, many innocent Yemeni citizens,” he said. “That’s true in Afghanistan and Pakistan too. So anger at the U.S. is also rooted in the death toll of this campaign.”

But there are nuances to the situation — including the fact that most of the world’s Muslims have never protested, demonstrated or rioted, Ryan said.

“They represent the real Islam and, like most people in the world, they have more to worry about on a daily basis than YouTube clips of a hate film,” he said.

Aloumari made a similar point.

“I think the main thing I would like people to know is that there are people from diverse backgrounds that are out protecting and serving our country in different ways,” she said. “My dad is an Arab American and he is Muslim. But that doesn’t affect his quality of work or his commitment to the United States. He’s there risking his life as much as any other diplomat and I am so proud of him. I just hope and pray he comes home safely.”

Story: MEGHAN FRICK, Social Media Manager