The protest in Sydney was one of many. In Pakistan protesters set fire to buildings and at least 20 people died in clashes with police. The anger at US policies in the country is such that the local US embassy spent $70,000 on TV ads with clips of President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton denouncing the film.

As the US’s war in Afghanistan has spilled over the border, millions of Pakistanis have been displaced by “anti-terror” operations. There is deep anger at US drone strikes that have killed a reported 880 civilians in Pakistan since 2004.

But some of the groups involved have their own agendas. In Libya the killings of the US ambassador and three others were carried out by an armed group carrying assault rifles, that used the protests as an opportunity for their attack.

The idea that religion is fundamental to the divide between the Middle East and the West has also been used to direct anger at US imperialism into safe channels. The Pakistan government’s railways minister offered a $US100,000 reward for the death of the filmmaker. Egypt’s state prosecutor issued arrest warrants for the filmmaker and seven others who helped promote it.

Yet both these governments are crucial supporters of US imperialism. The Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist leaders insist on maintaining diplomatic and military relations with the US. The Egyptian government, now dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, recently destroyed the tunnels that have been used to break Israel’s siege of the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

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