An ugly and ancient aspect of Islamic culture recently triggered violent demonstrations throughout the world. The cause was a low-budget film ("The Innocence of Moslems") made by an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian. A minority of Moslems have always been particularly sensitive about their religion and how it should be practiced. These conservatives have gone by many names over the centuries. The most common tags these days are Salafists and Wahhabis. These fanatic minorities have exercised an influence on Islamic culture far larger than their numbers (usually less than 10-20 percent) would suggest.
Criticism of Islam was also forbidden by these conservatives, particularly by foreigners. In the past these conservatives have used persuasion and coercion to force the majority to resist change of any sort. Thus the early practice of Moslem scholars translating ancient Greek, Roman, and other books into Arabic and then discussing all these new ideas was brought to a halt. The conservatives considered these foreign ideas and concepts poisonous and unIslamic. Thus, after a few centuries of being a beacon of knowledge, the Islamic world began to fade. The Turks revived it for a while, by conquering most of the Middle East, but even the Turks eventually found themselves dragged down by corruption and opposition to new ideas. What used to be the wealthiest region in the world became one of the poorest. Were it not for the Western world developing an appetite for oil, which Arabia had a lot of, the Middle East would be the poorest region in the world.
Not all Moslems quietly accepted this static thinking and the poverty (economic, intellectual, and cultural) that went along with it. They were often joined in this resistance by non-Moslems still living in the region. But the Islamic conservatives almost always managed to muster enough force to halt change, often with much bloodshed. This brought with it frequent bouts of Islamic terrorism, as some of the Islamic conservatives sought to express their opposition to change in the most violent way possible. That Islamic terrorism has been flaring up for over a thousand years. It's nothing new, not at all.
This brings us back to "The Innocence of Moslems" and why it was created by an Egyptian Christian who had fled his homeland. He's one of many, actually. Some 1,500 years ago most Egyptians were Christians, nearly all of them belonging to the local Coptic sects. Then the Moslems invaded in the 7th century and used threats and financial incentives to encourage conversion to Islam. After three centuries of this, Moslems were the majority. Ever since, Egyptian Moslems have sought, often with violence, to convert the remaining Egyptian Christians (currently about ten percent of the population). Some converted, but increasingly over the last century Copts have simply fled the country. Those who left had bitter, and ancient, memories of Moslem persecution. That apparently led to making the "The Innocence of Moslems" (allegedly financed by Copts in Egypt).
In response, the Egyptian government issued arrest warrants for seven Copts (including the man believed behind the film) and an American clergyman noted for his anti-Moslem attitudes. All eight are accused of having something to do with the film. This is a largely symbolic gesture, as all those being sought by the police are outside the country. Copts living outside Egypt frequently say unkind things about Egypt and Islam, but these comments are usually ignored inside Egypt. Meanwhile, a senior Pakistani government official has offered $100,000 of his own money for whoever kills the Egyptian-American man responsible for the film.
Islamic terrorism often gets explained away as being a reaction to Western imperialism, or colonialism, or simply cultural differences. No one, especially in the Islamic world, wants to admit that the cause of it all is religious fanatics who would rather appear righteous than be righteous.