The belated release on YouTube of an American distasteful film Innocence of Muslims has sparked a brutal and violent response in some Muslim countries. In the Libyan city of Benghazi the US consulate was stormed and its ambassador together with three other American diplomats and ten other Libyans murdered. The murder of the ambassador sent shock waves across the globe and, unsurprisingly, reinforced the unflattering image of Islam as a religion which incites indiscriminate violence against people.
This murderous outrage is not about Islam or its Prophet. It is about gangsters. It is of no use therefore to speculate whether or not these people represent Islam. They do not. The means and methods they employ undermine whatever noble purpose they might think they have. The truth of the matter is that they have none whatsoever, except perhaps that of spreading hatred and terror.
The film, Innocence of Muslims, is, by all accounts, a bad film. And so are the intentions behind the film. It is clear that it is motivated by a deep-seated hatred of the founder of Islam. There is nothing noble in preaching hatred, whatever medium one employs to its effect.
There are times when the public display of anger is commendable and even mandatory. But under what conditions and in what form and to what purposes and what object should such anger be directed at? No one can or should demand of Muslims not to protest the vile depiction of the Prophet in the film. But how should Muslims channel this anger? Ought they not to think about constructive ways through which this justifiable anger can be expressed? Ought they not to think about the adverse consequences of these impulsive actions? How constructive is it to act in ways which thwart the winning of the hearts and minds of the people who do not share their faith but who can nonetheless see and sympathise with their plight? Do the noble ends justify sordid means?
Actions done on pure instinct without regard for the lives of innocent people or for the faith whose image and reputation their tarnish can hardly be a reflection of diverse Muslim cultures. What this sorry state of unthinking and violent behavior tells us is that these people have no political or practical agenda whatsoever except perhaps that of extracting the film out of total obscurity into international scene. The producer of the film could have hardly hoped for a better PR than the one given by these gangsters. They prove in action and in truth what the producer showed in fiction.
Real vs. Imaginary challenges
Syria has been bleeding for a year now. Muslim blood is being shed. Muslim women are being raped and Muslim babies are being slaughtered. This horrendous state of affairs; this heartless brutality visited upon a people whose only crime is that they want to live in freedom; this monstrous terrorism that spares no one does not register in the collective consciousness of these gangsters who are easily offended by fictional characters. Real blood is shed daily in Syria but we see no mass protests in the name of Islam to demand an immediate halt of all killings and destruction? Where is their rage when their “brothers and sisters in faith” are being slaughtered like animals?
Violence begets more violence. It is a proven fact. The circle of violence can only be broken by an act of love. Where is their love? Where is their compassion? Where is their humanity?
The really sad thing is that these gagsters are making it difficult for Muslim everywhere in the world. They are creating an image of Islam that is monstrous and violent, an image that will stay with it for a long time to come. No one will believe Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace. How could they? Actions of these gangsters speak louder than the civilized words and peaceful demonstrations of ordinary Muslims. Thoughtless actions and immature reactions will only aggravate the intercultural and interreligious conflicts not only in the Middle East but also in the West. There is no other lesson to be learned from these gangsters. No point in speculating about how these acts of violence were “the result of a deadly confluence of factors: fanaticism from Islamophobes and fringe Islamists, sectarian and political tensions in Egypt, a heavily militarized post-revolution society in Libya, and, potentially, the grave consequences of the Obama administration’s drone warfare”. Whatever the causes or the confluence of factors, one thing remains certain: we are not dealing with an organized and systematic, intellectually and politically informed resistance to Islamophobia but with a gangster “culture” that provides no alternative whatsoever to how sustainably combat all these negative phenomena that have emerged in the global scene. Quite on the contrary: it is one of the factors that fuels the conflict, one of the symptoms of a deeper problem perhaps, but nonetheless, a symptom that stand on the way of addressing whatever deeper causes that underlie the relation between Islam and the West (an expression that is really meaningless because it compares two entities with different ontological registers).