Anti-Islam film and anti-American rage

Hemang Sharma

Islam is a religion of peace. I grew up around Muslims and have many Muslim friends; none of them would even hurt a fly, ever. The Prophet Mohammed’s depiction in human or any form is strictly prohibited in Islam, and is considered offensive to Muslims. Not only is it forbidden for Muslims to make or endorse such imagery, a small minority of people within the faith take it to the point where they believe that no one should be allowed to depict the Prophet, or to criticize their religion.

When a film like ”Innocence of Muslims” comes along, with a clear aim of offending nearly as many Muslims as possible, it leads to Fatwas, boycotts of the West and Western goods, violent protests and even deaths. Muslims living in America embrace the first amendment, as it allows them, and every other person of faith to practice it freely. 

But do people of Muslim faith defend others people’s right to speak freely?  Should they?  And does anything ever justify violence?

Last week’s news was dominated by outrage in the Muslim world over “Innocence of Muslims.” Many US Consulates saw acts of violence. In Benghazi, Libya the US Ambassador was killed, and many others were hurt. The youth in Cairo, Egypt (the same one that was fighting for democracy a few months ago) clashed with security forces and waved American flags. The flag-waving wasn’t a sign of them supporting a democratic society like the US; they were instead on fire, for it was the blasphemous states of America that had allowed such an anti-Islamic, atrocious work of art to be made.

British outlet the Telegraph reported violent protests that were also experienced in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and even Iran; a country that doesn’t take too kindly to protestors, of any kind. The protesters have been on the streets for more than a week, leading upto twenty deaths, globally.  Although the presidents of Egypt and Yemen apologized to the US for the attacks, not many prominent Muslim leaders have come out in the media to condemn acts of violence.  President Barack Obama made it a point to assert his position as  the leader of the free world, last week in Coloradom, "I want people around the world to hear me," he said. "To all those who would do us harm: No act of terror will go unpunished. I will not dim the light of the values that we proudly present to the rest of the world. No act of violence shakes the resolve of the United States of America."

The consequences of trying to preach free speech to the Muslim world, especially when it comes to being critical of the Islamic faith, are grave. As people like Salman Rushdie, Theo van Gogh, Ayan Hirsi Ali, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, Dutch politician Geert Wilders and now Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the Egyptian-born man behind this new movie who NBC NEWS described as a “Coptic Christian”, and many others will tell you — saying, drawing, painting or depicting anything that can cause an outrage in the Muslim world, can probably send you running away for your life.

Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” is still banned in India, as the outlets selling it often end up being burnt to the ground. Speaking to a leading Indian daily newspaper on the launch of his memoir ‘Joseph Anton’ — the pseudonym he used to write the controversial 1988 book — Rushdie mentions the hardships of a life that he faced due to some hardcore Islamists who basically issued a sermon for his death. “I am gagged and imprisoned," he recalls writing in his diary. “I can’t even speak. I want to kick a football in a park with my son. Ordinary, banal life: my impossible dream.”

Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was stabbed in broad daylight in Holland over an anti-Muslim film “Fitna”, Comedy Central heavily censored South Park when the creators depicted Prophet Mohamed, over safety concerns by many death threats posted to the network’s website.  Kurt Westergaard, the man behind the infamous cartoons depicting Prophet Mohamed in a bad light has faced multiple attacks on his life, also getting various Danish embassies attacked throughout the world.

So far, we have learned that when anyone, in the East or the West, attempts to depict the Prophet, people get hurt. It deserves a mention that gods and prophets of almost every other faith have been maligned in the popular media for a long time now. If that is okay, why do a small percentage of people in the Muslim faith resort to violence over a video?

It is my humble request to people of all faiths, or a lack thereof, if you don’t like something, ignore it. Just don’t resort to violence.

My Muslim friends are as offended and outraged over the video as anyone valuing their religious beliefs would be. But are they the ones burning down embassies and killing people? No. Are those the ones that are causing chaos in places like Pakistan, Iran, Libya, Egypt and many others, the representatives of 1.2 billion Muslims? No, of course not.

The First Amendment of the United States is in place to protect both popular and unpopular opinions, not the thoughts of the majority. An attack on anyone, Americans or otherwise, is not justified over a silly video. If people don’t get that, and would rather kill someone for making a movie, then they clearly do not represent the ideals of Islam.

 

–Hemang Sharma

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