What triggers a cataclysmic or a world-changing event? The much-heralded “Arab Spring” which began in December 2010, was a result of the first protests that erupted in Tunisia following a vegetable vendor’s self-immolation protesting police corruption.

The current wave of anti-US violence across Egypt, Yemen and Libya are the result of a film posted online called ‘Innocence of Muslims’ by an obscure but radical American filmmaker who is now in hiding. A senior American diplomat, Christopher Stevens, has been killed in Libya. The violence has spread to various other embassies, which has led the Americans to put even the Berlin mission on red alert.

While these unfortunate incidents unfold, it is important that governments realise that these actions could have serious consequences in other countries as well. It would be easy to dismiss these violent acts as those of various disgruntled militia, as some US and other western commentators seem to have.

On the contrary, there seems to be a malicious plan behind the attacks, which are so close to the 9/11 anniversary. Rocket launchers do not appear out of nowhere and hit cars with precision. It is one such rocket that killed Ambassador Stevens in the city of Benghazi.

The attacks may have been executed by the man on street, but they have the imprint of a planned manoeuvre by terror organisations. Anti-Americanism in the Muslim world — Arab or otherwise — is not a new phenomenon. There is as much hatred for the US in Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia as in Shia-majority Iran.

It is important, therefore, that world leaders do everything to prevent the spread of violence to other countries. There is a precedent. In 1979, when the American embassy in Tehran was attacked resulting in a 444-day standoff following an attack on Mecca by Muslim radicals, it soon spread to Islamabad where university students burned down the American embassy, killing two.

All evidence points to something similar in the current case where radicalised populations vent their anger on American installations. The earlier it is stopped, the better.