The recent upheavals in the middle east triggered by the American-made anti-Islam film reinforced the long standing Muslim hatred for American presence in some Muslim countries notably Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This presence has been construed by radical Muslim groups as American occupational strategy in particular and expansionism in general. This issue could have just receded over time if not for this latest demonic ploy of an evil mind bent on fomenting chaos and hatred between peoples already wallowing in hate, bigotry and terrorism.
On September 11, 2012, U.S. diplomatic missions in Cairo, Egypt, and Benghazi, Libya, were attacked by protesters, touching off other violent and non-violent protests outside U.S. and other Western diplomatic missions in almost every country throughout the Muslim world. These Protests were provoked by an online trailer for the movie Innocence of Muslims sparked by a video made in California which depicted Mohammad (pbuh) – the Holy Prophet of Islam, as a womanizer, fool and child abuser.
The attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on September 20 was termed “a terrorist attack” by the US government.
In Cairo, a group scaled the U.S. embassy wall and tore down the American flag, replacing it with a black Islamic flag. Protests continued in Egypt resulting in one death and over two hundred injured.
In Benghazi, the attack on the U.S. consulate lasted almost five hours and the attackers used rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles, hand grenades, gun trucks, and mortars. It resulted in the deaths of the United States Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith,American private security employee Glen Doherty and former U.S. Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods.
Such was the initial chaos induced by this anti-Islam bigot who produced the film “Innocence of Muslims”. The film mocks Islam’s holy prophet but sadly the consequent furor of radical Muslims was rather interpreted by some western leaders as merely a sign of broader anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. Surely this was an added fuel to an already raging anti-American sentiments.
Initially, the evil-minded producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, would seem to have accomplished his apparent objective, that is, to foment further chaos and hatred between Muslims and Americans which had escalated since the 9/11 incident. The alleged director/producer of “Innocence of Muslims,” was reportedly arrested though but not for producing and publishing the trailer of the movie on the internet but for breaching the terms of his probation for a 2010 banking fraud conviction. He is currently detained at an undisclosed location in California.
How the leaders from both west and east are interpreting the film and the resulting chaos are rather boggling the mind more than inviting peaceful sure-fire solutions. Quite interestingly, the reactions of these leaders tend to take sides as evidently they are reading the signals from biased perspectives.
While repeating his condemnations of the video, U.S. President Barack Obama staunchly defended free speech riling some Muslim leaders instead of attacking the walls that divided the already polarized Muslims and those who staunchly hate Islamism.
“The strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy,” Obama said in a 30-minute speech before the UN Assembly on September 27. His speech was entirely dominated by this theme.
Speaking after Obama, President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, where more than a dozen people were killed in protests against the anti-Islam film, demanded insults to religion be criminalized.
“The international community must not become silent observers and should criminalize such acts that destroy the peace of the world and endanger world security by misusing freedom of expression,” he said.
Foreign ministers from the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation met on Friday, September 28 to discuss appropriate action concerning the video.
“This incident demonstrates the serious consequences of abusing the principle of freedom of expression on one side and the freedom of demonstration on the other side,” OIC Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told reporters.
Human Rights First and Muslim Public Affairs Council, two U.S.-based advocacy groups, warned of the risks of regulating such freedoms.
“Countless incidents show that when governments or religious movements seek to punish offenses in the name of combating religious bigotry, violence then ensues and real violations of human rights are perpetrated against targeted individuals,” they said in a joint statement.
The 47-member U.N. Human Rights Council, dominated by developing states, has passed non-binding resolutions against defamation of religion for over a decade. Similar ones were endorsed in the U.N. General Assembly.
European countries, the United States and several Latin American nations in the council opposed the resolutions, arguing that while individual people have human rights, religions do not, and that existing U.N. pacts – if enforced – were sufficient to curb incitement to hatred and violence.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle attempted to dampen talk of a clash of civilizations by saying: “Some would have us believe that the burning embassy buildings are proof of a clash of civilizations. We must not allow ourselves to be deluded by such arguments. This is not a clash of civilizations. It is a clash within civilizations. It is also a struggle for the soul of the movement for change in the Arab world.”
Regardless of the views expressed by some world leaders, only two things are clear: 1) We have on one side those who condemn the film but at the same time avoiding direct actions against it under the convenient excuse of defending freedom of expression. The freedom to express oneself in any acceptable form has been guaranteed as inviolable basic human right which should not be curtailed but there should be corresponding responsibilities attached to it when abused. Inactions from such abuse are equally condemnable. 2) On the other side, we have those who reacted quite swiftly in the manner they think appropriate, and more often, there is very little chance for it being appropriate when carried under passionate anger and hatred.
There again we saw one condemnable action matched by another condemnable one. It has been repeatedly said that one wrong cannot be corrected by another mistake. And really at this point, it is lamentable that leaders from both sides have been reading this from the wrong perspective which could very dangerously result in the wrong prescriptions with respect to solutions. Worst, there are those who simply shrug it off as clash of civilizations.
We can do something about this if we stop looking at this situation as an issue between civilizations or worse between two great religions of the world. Secretary Hillary Clinton reminds us of decency in Religion when she said: “Great Religions of the world have demonstrated that they can rise above the insults around them”.
Indeed we have seen those who tried to rise above the situation and called for sobriety, decency and peaceful solutions to the problem.
A demonstration in Sao Paulo, Brazil was peaceful, with Christian and Jewish supporters marching alongside Muslims. Towards the end of the rally, Hassan Ghareb, one of the organizers said: “Unfortunately, this film “Innocence of Muslims”, which they produced to incite a dispute between Muslims and Christians, is unacceptable because the Muslims and the Christians are brothers; we come from the same source.”
Mufti Ismael Menk, a noted Islamic scholar based in Indonesia says: “A true believer does not insult or abuse those whom he disagrees or has differences with. The Messenger (pbuh) never insulted or abused those he disagreed or had differences with. Those who swear others, insult them or belittle them due to a disagreement lack spirituality & decency.”
“If we cannot resolve our disagreement or understand one another, it does not warrant insult but rather we should agree to disagree.”
Anti-Islam bigotry and the consequent overkill reactions are clearly works of the extremists all. The unfortunate thing about it is that good men, or at least the innocent ones, are made to suffer and bear the consequences of this extremists’ folly. There is no clash of civilization here. There is only clash between good and evil. Now, if all good men of the west would tend to be soft on the anti-Islam bigots because they happen to be of their own kind and good Muslims of the middle east and from everywhere would tend to be soft on the terroristic overkill reactions because the perpetrators incidentally happened to be one of their own, then this is the time when all good men are allowing themselves to be defeated by the extremism from both sides.
Will the leaders from both sides wake up to their senses and address this issue from the right perspective? OMG, how could have this supposed great and respected world leaders been missing the point here. Amazingly, when biased perspective, stereotyped judgment and boxed mindset come into play, the true picture rarely appears clear to the human eye.