Not So Innocent
“The Innocence of Muslims,” an amateur anti-Islam film, generated mass protests across the Middle East and South Asia, jeopardizing U.S assets abroad. But did Muslims respond to a self-fulfilling prophecy?
All it takes is a cartoon, an amateur film or a piece of literature to rile up Muslims around the world and provoke them to congregate in the form of violent street protests. From Libya to Sri Lanka and many Muslim nations in between, violent uprisings against a small budget, amateur film titled, “The Innocence of Muslim” that made a mockery of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), erupted simultaneously.
The film made by one Nakoula Basseley, who produced the film under his alias Sam Bacille, remains a dubious character. Initially believed to be an Israeli, Jewish citizen, Israeli authorities vehemently rejected all reports claiming that they could not find any records of this 55 year old man’s citizenship. Though “Bacille” went into hiding following the mass protests in the Middle East, U.S authorities were able to track him down and uncover numerous other aliases linking him to a 2010 federal bank fraud.
But whatever the identity of the producer, the very fact that a crude, disgusting film was able to produce a violent reaction throughout the Muslim world says little for Islam. Protests erupted in Egypt triggering a domino effect with Libya seeing the worst of them all. Young protestors, mostly men, stormed the U.S embassy with the episode ending with the tragic killing of U.S Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and three other Embassy staff. As U.S flags were burnt, anti-Americanism reached its peak.
South Asia, the hub of volatile andd sensitivei i activity,i i off course gave the Middle East a run for its money. Afghanistan and Sri Lanka both saw street protests that subsequently dispersed after a few hours. Bangladesh illustrated a slightly more violent reaction but that too was quelled by police forces. In Pakistan as always, the game was different. While street protests were launched, the government went one step further and declared a national holiday to mark a “Love the Prophet Day” in hopes that protestors would practice tolerance and peace; perhaps too much to expect from a largely illiterate country with strong right-wing, conservative elements at play. Urban centers around the country burned as protestors set cars and police stations on fire, burnt American flags and effigies of President Obama and President Zardari. But that was not all. ATMs were robbed and shops were looted. Cinema halls were burnt down but not before protestors managed to clean the vending machines of all soft drinks. As the mob grew, young men in beards united with those in t-shirts yet hardly anyone could really define why they were plundering their own country. Few had heard of the film while even fewer had seen a preview. In the name of Islam, agitated and violent protestors defended their Prophet’s honor in a way that the Prophet himself would have condemned it. Loving and respecting the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) does not require a day of street protests but rather a lifetime of emulating his justice, patience, resolve, courage and inter-faith harmony. In the realm of mindless violence, it seemed then that sanity was lost along with a true understanding of Islam.
While the U.S government desper-- atelyately issued adverts and bought air-airtimei on PkiPakistanii channelsh l to express their non-involvement from the movie, their efforts fell on deaf ears. An antiIslam film produced by a U.S citizen and filmed in America is automatically assumed to appear with the tacit blessings of the United States since few understand that we today live in a world where information cannot be controlled or monitored. The film was produced by a single American and as the case develops, even its actors were duped into believing that they were shooting a regular documentary, having absolutely no clue that it would be dubbed, re-edited and tampered to serve as an anti-Islamic film.
While anger and frustration with such hate speech is justified, the acts of violence are not. Religious sensitivi- tyty is tightly tied to nationalism in many parts off theh world;ld a concept thath UU.S citizens must understand and respect. However, plundering one’s own country will not hurt anyone but its own citizens. No one is asking for Muslims to ignore such a blatant assault on the Prophet but it would perhaps be worth our time to channel that anger into a more constructive direction and practice restraint and tolerance: incidentally two traits that a peace-loving religion like Islam impresses upon its followers.