The past week the world was once again shocked by violent demonstrations in the Middle-East. The reason was the controversial anti-Islam movie “Innocence of Muslims”. The movie shows Mohammed in the desert with several of his followers. He says they can kill men, take women prisoner and sell children as slaves. He encourages them to do whatever it takes to spread “There is only one God and his Prophet is Mohammed”.
The real identity of the movie maker is still unknown. The spokesman for the movie-maker, Jewish American Steve Klein, states that “Sam Bacile” is a Christian with Middle-Eastern roots. The goal of the movie was “to go for the radical one percent (of Muslims)”. The main source of distribution stems from an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in the USA, looking for attention for the discrimination and attacks of Christians in Egypt.
Steve Klein says in the interview he does not have blood on his hands. He states that he is an expert on Islamic issues and on what Mohammed did. He wanted to support a movie that told the truth. “If there is blood on anyone’s hands I’d point my finger to (*drums please*) Hillary Clinton and the state department for criminal negligence for not protecting the ambassador.”
Summing up the price of this week’s freedom of speech:
Libya: On Monday the American ambassador and three of his diplomats were killed during demonstrations.
Yemen: Current death toll is four; at least 15 people got injured. And maybe not related, but interesting enough to mention: on Monday there was an attack on the Minister of Defense. He survived, 8 of his security staff and 5 civilians did not.
Egypt: One American flag
Tunisia, Morocco, Sudan: Protest against the movie, no facts found about injuries
Iran: Because there is no American Embassy in Iran the protesters decided to go to the Swiss Embassy. Do not ask me for the logic behind this.
Goal Achieved: The world has seen that there are right-wing Islamic extremists in the Middle-East. The Western world condemns the violence and the footage of the protesters creates fear of Muslims.
I am a big supporter of freedom of speech, and I am happy that I live in a country where I can write pretty much anything I want. But with great freedom, comes great responsibility. I do not use this freedom to create hate, anger, nor discrimination. I know there are extreme people in the world; I do not need to provoke them to prove my point. And it is obvious that the movie is nothing more than a provocation, telling millions of people in the world that their Prophet was a raving madman. I assume that most Muslims look at the movie, comment about how shitty it is, take the insult and move on with their lives. But what we see in the media is not most Muslims; it is the small radical group of Muslims. The most dangerous group obviously, but not a reason to believe that the whole Middle-East is filled with only radical extremists.
The role of the media is crucial in this case. Instead of only showing rioting extremists, it is important that influential Muslims from the Middle-East that distance themselves from the violence are heard. Just as you have probably seen Mrs. Clinton distancing the American Government from the movie, the other side should also be shown from a Muslim perspective. Even though the footage of rioting people is more spectacular, the media should provide a more neutral perspective.
The Quran does not explicitly forbid images of Muhammad, but there are a few hadith (supplemental teachings) which have explicitly prohibited Muslims from creating visual depictions of figures. Still, many Muslims who take a stricter view of the supplemental traditions will sometimes challenge any depiction of Muhammad, including those created and published by non-Muslims. The difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims can be compared with the difference between Catholics and Protestant Christians. Catholic churches have many iconic images of Jesus and other saints, while Protestant churches are more sober and without (many) images. The same principal applies to Sunni and Shia Muslims.
I am an agnostic, I believe that truth of certain claims are unknown and (so far as can be judged) unknowable. Therefore I do not fully understand the anger of the Muslims about such a bad movie. But I have even less understanding for the maker of the movie. It is obvious from the movie that the maker wants to anger and insult the Muslim society.
The tolerance issue here is a difficult one. What should we tolerate and what not? Freedom is speech is a key freedom in a democratic society. So even if you make an insulting film it should be tolerated. Violence and murder should never be tolerated. So what is the verdict you ask? Who is right?
The thing is: both the movie-maker and the Muslim demonstrators are wrong! Freedom of speech is there to make yourself heard if there is something in your society that you want attention for. But the movie-maker is only hate-mongering, depicting all Muslims as vile raving madmen. I believe in being tolerant towards other people’s believes. One could argue that the Muslims want to force everyone to believe the same, but they are not guiltier in that as that Christians. Both religions state to hold the absolute truth. Only one prophet is the “real son of God” and my book holds the true word of God. Battle it out between yourself, but leave the people that just want to live their own lives out of it.
Use freedom of speech for good, not to point your finger to something you don’t agree with.
Demonstrate for something good, not against something your belief states is forbidden.
Take your life into your hands, and stop hiding behind your religion to disagree with other people. Different cultures have different values and traditions. Stop making everyone think the same, eat the same and talk the same as you do. Life will be a boring place if you succeed.