The Innocence of Muslims provided the spark but the fuel is undoubtedly Washington’s foreign policy which in the last decade in particular has amounted to little better than a bloody killing spree across the region.
It takes heroic delusion to remain surprised that Afghans, Iraqis or Libyans are ungrateful for their “liberation” when that came at so high a cost in lives and brought so little freedom.
There is no end in sight to the killing, either. Nato’s admission last Sunday that it killed up to eight civilians in a bombing raid in Afghanistan is rare.
Army chiefs don’t normally count civilian deaths at all – or just blithely label the dead “insurgents” without a shred of evidence to prove it.
As a result we have no idea how many civilians have died in the 11-year invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Tens of thousands? Hundreds? Millions?
That on top of the million-plus dead in Iraq as a result of the US invasion and occupation, and tens of thousands killed in the Nato-led operation to oust Muammar Gadaffi in Libya.
Meanwhile the US has completely solved the problem of mounting civilian casualties from its drone strikes, which stand at over 3,000 in Pakistan alone.
Not by stopping its terror campaign, but by reclassifying any military-age male hit by a drone strike as a combatant by definition.
The surprise is not that the Middle East is rising up in fury against the US but that it hasn’t happened sooner.
Since 12 people were killed in the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi, there has been much finger-wagging in the Western media about the need for moderate Islam to distance itself from these acts of violence.
Well, it’s time we in the West took a look at ourselves. First we must distance ourselves from the acts of dangerous and often violent extremists in our midst.
We can start with the likes of Geert Wilders and Daniel Pipes, David Horowitz and Anders Behring Breivik – and the shadowy figures behind The Innocence of Muslims – who are cheerleading for an apocalyptic racial conflict between the West and the Middle East.
Then we can move on to our politicians. A total pullout from Afghanistan would be a good first sign that the West is prepared to renounce violence and embrace peace.
Follow that with the withdrawal of troops and closure of bases across the Middle East, including the tens of thousands of soldiers that remain on Iraq’s doorstep and the military camps that encircle Iran.
Shut down the drone programme, apologise for decades of imperialist meddling in the region, offer reparations to all the countries that have suffered bombing attacks, coups and invasions – and declare our willingness to put our war criminals on trial, starting with Tony Blair and George Bush.
Then, and only then, will the West be in any position to start talking to the Muslim world what is and is not a legitimate target for their anger.