The latest furore to shock and ignite the Muslim world into filling our streets with their complaints comes with the release or rise to prominence on Youtube of a film called ‘The Innocence of Muslims.’ In it, Islam and Muslims are portrayed quite negatively while it attempts to highlight the ‘hypocrisies of Islam.’ To be sure it isn’t a great work of art, and considering the allegations from the actors who maintain that Sam Bacile (a pseudonym for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula) mislead them concerning the real plot and real character names while they were filming, the content is surely rather dodgy. But in the end this was simply some US man born in Egypt with a criminal record, a pet hatred of Islam and a love of Youtube. He was arrested by US police over attempts to lie about his role in making the film. And that was it. Done and dusted. Except, of course, for the massive overreaction from Muslims around the world who feel that because a non-Muslim doesn’t agree with their religion, he should pay.
There’s something very irritating about this reaction. Of course they have the right to express themselves publicly, as part of having a right to free speech, but the way it is so often done beggars belief. Masses of often violent protests in cities and countries around the world leading to quite a number of injuries and deaths. The familiar and now old catchphrase of ‘Death to America’ was tossed about in Kabul as peaceful protestors threw rocks at an army base there. Muslim leaders across the globe decried a ‘devilish act’ of blasphemy, though failing to really mention the free speech on which they themselves depend on to make their voices heard. On the 18th of September, a female suicide bomber drove a car filled with explosives into a mini bus containing foreign aviation workers, for the crime of being foreign and therefore linked to this video, not to mention several Afghan natives, responsibility for which was later claimed by Islamic militant group, Hizb-i-Islami. Evidently murder in the name of Allah is a reasonable reaction. Ireland, too, has seen a reaction from our Islamic community. Interestingly former editor of Irish Muslim magazine Abdul Hazeeb, speaking to the Irish Times, told of his reluctance to join the march, which he feels only serves to alienate wider society, and that he attended only to ensure it didn’t digress into violence, a statement quite telling in and of itself. To be sure, many Muslims will feel outraged without the need to kill somebody, involved or not. But should they feel so angered?
I’ve already mentioned the Catholic Church and the negative role religion has played in the formation of our world and society. Islam isn’t the only drain; certain forms of Christianity have had their part to play. And yet murder only seems to be a response from the Islamic world. Westboro Baptist Church represents extreme Christian fundamentalism, they too like their signs and extreme reactions yet murder isn’t a step they have taken yet to express a point. Not to tar all Muslims with the same brush – murder is a response from the fanatical few, but even the protests and marches are over the top. If this video, or those cartoons are so offensive, why are they looking at them? If you don’t like or agree with something, the best thing to do is ignore it. Is it just me or do these millions of protestors not realise that by reacting so angrily and so widespread they have and pumped up that which they hate with life, and simply making millions more people around the globe aware of it. Speaking personally, the first time I heard and watched the video came after I heard about the Muslim protests over its content. It’s been on the web since the 1st of July. Poorly shot with terrible acting and rarely making any form of sense, this should have simply slipped under the radar and into obscurity.
It’s quite easy to be blasphemous under Muslim law; the list of blasphemous items is as long as it is outdated. Evidently freedom of speech isn’t a major concern for those who prosecute their brethren or those unfortunate enough to have provoked their ire – individuals have been accused and prosecuted for naming a teddy bear after their prophet, speaking about what Muhammad might have done were he still alive (apparently ‘WWMD?’ bracelets aren’t a thing in Islam), finding fault with Islam (just as well these rules don’t apply to Catholicism or else our entire country might find themselves in the dock), being alone with persons of the opposite sex barring relatives or daring to wear makeup on television (presumably for women only).
Should we give in, and hold up our hands and say ‘yes, Muslim world. You are right. Free speech shouldn’t really be free.’ Should that be applied to freedom of religion, the two of which are so often entwined? What if we look at things from a different angle? Perhaps shouting and roaring bearing signs and placards which proclaim ‘The only God is Allah,’ is offensive to those who believe with similar fervour in different gods and different prophets? Will Islam champion their right to be offended? Or is it simply one rule for Islam, and another for everyone else? Islam doesn’t hold Jesus in the same regard as Christianity, refusing to acknowledge him as anything other than a prophet. Does Christianity shout and wail and riot and, at the most extreme end, suicide bomb? And why does the right to religion triumph the right to free speech? Is one more important than the other? One of these has resulted in the deaths of millions of people over the centuries, the promulgation of hatred and killing in the name of God, despite what he might say on the matter. I’ll give you a hint. I’m not talking about freedom of speech. If we go down this road of picking and choosing what one is free to say and what one isn’t, we are taking a very dangerous path. If one thing can be censored then suddenly everything is up for review. Why is Islam so special that the world must bow down before them in fear every time they get their knickers in a twist over a laughably simple cartoon or Youtube video? If you believe that other religions are wrong then fine. If you believe that this video or those cartoons are wrong or insensitive or downright hateful then lovely. You’re not alone. Just react in the same way as the rest of civilised society and rant on the internet in the privacy of your own home. Save your time and effort for your faith and leave the rest of us alone.
Many will say that they can’t simply do that. According to blasphemy laws in Islam, the Muslim community is obliged to seek retribution owing to the fact that Muhammad is long dead and can’t exactly take revenge himself. But in reality, the overreaction to this perceived blasphemy doesn’t really have a basis in their scriptures. Neither the Quran nor Hadith makes any solid mention of blasphemy. What does make mention is Sharia law, man-made and which you might recognise from certain groups attempting to bring it into the west in place of our own, fair, laws. Ironically, the only mention made in their holy book says that blasphemers will be dealt with in the afterlife, so those living here on earth needn’t worry about it. Something evidently lost on those who throw stones and rocks, roar abuse and protest violently and shoot and kill in the name of retribution for a prophet who didn’t ask for any of this. Ironically (perhaps) while this is being written, Ireland still clutches on to the remnants of a past time with our own blasphemy law, which prohibits the ‘publication or utterance of blasphemous matter,’ blasphemous matter being that which insults anything held sacred by a religion and the result is mass outrage.
Believe in your God, live your life as best you can, follow the teachings of your religion if it makes you happy, live your life as an example to others because if you want to convert someone oftentimes what you do is as important as what you say. Somehow any such arguments will be lost on the masses who refuse to understand why the everyone in the West doesn’t love Islam as much as they do, and things are unlikely to change. If there’s anything we can take from this, it is this – let us all pray that the next figure to insult Islam is Justin Bieber. Nicky Minaj will do either.