The strategy of Osama bin Laden that informed the al-Qaeda attacks in September 2001 was to so provoke the United States that its government lashed out at the Islamic world, enraging Muslims across the globe.

It seems now that Islamophobes have learnt the same lesson. Whether the military-style assault on the US consulate in Benghazi was related to the anti-US riots spreading across the Middle East or a pre-prepared terrorist assault, it’s clear the film Innocence of Muslims, a beyond-crude piece of religious vilification, was prepared by a small group of Islamophobes with the aim of eliciting exactly the sort of reaction it has achieved — particularly in Egypt, which may well have been the target of the “filmmakers”.

The furious reaction from Middle Eastern communities, including one reported declaration that “the deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet” will confirm every stereotype of angry, intolerant Muslims perpetuated across the West, with the bonus that by linking the reaction to the deaths of at least four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya, the Obama administration will likely undertake an aggressive response that will itself engender further anger.

This is not a free speech issue: this was religious propaganda prepared with the direct intention of eliciting a violent response from the targets of its vilification and, ironically, strengthening extremists on both sides.

There is, unfortunately, no solution to such actions, when the internet makes all propaganda accessible, no matter how unrepresentative or extreme its producers. But it is up to governments and community leaders to understand the need to resist being manipulated into a vicious circle of violence and hate. Which is exactly what extremists, whether Islamic or Islamophobic, want.