By Joey Ayoub
The movie, a pathetic piece clearly destined to insult devout muslims, was reportedly produced by a Coptic Christian, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and directed by a softcore pornography director, Alan Roberts.
While the profession of its director already says a lot, in my humble opinion, about the intellectual integrity of a movie supposed to touch upon the life of one of the most important (impact-wise) figures of history, Muhammad, I would stress that as far as the purpose of the movie is concerned, that fact is irrelevant. The movie’s purpose is clear enough to anyone who watches it: it exploits modern tensions between Coptic Christians and Muslims in Egypt to insult the very core of Islam, namely Muhammad himself.
Although I would describe the movie as pathetic, I would still defend the right of anyone to openly criticize whatever subject one wishes to criticize. Assuming that basic human rights are respected, I reserve no exception for that position. I include digusting positions such as holocaust denial (Jewish or Armenian seems relatively common), homophobia, racism, sexism or whatever else.
The violent response to this movie portrays Muslims as being fanatical, anti-freedom of speech advocates, anti-modern individuals that simply do not understand what it’s like to live in a free society. Absurd and Barbaric are the only words I can think of when I heard of some of the responses.
Ayatollah Hassan Sanei of Iran increasing the bounty for the murder of Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses, from $500,000 to $3.3 million, although Rushdie had nothing whatsoever to do with the movie. And even if he did, openly calling for the murder of a human being for what he says is an immoral and degrading act.
In my home country of Lebanon, people torched a KFC and a Hardee’s in Tripoli. I’m assuming that it’s because they’re American – the whole almawtoo li amrika (death to america) wisdom – because chickens are usually neutral when it comes to positions on religious questions.
And protests around the world, from Palestine to the USA passing by the UK, Australia, Paris, Israel and most of the Middle East, ranged from civilized to people burning American and Israeli flags and other violent acts – so far around 40 dead, I’m told.
Protesting is fine. It’s a right. In fact, it’s the same right as the one people are protesting against. You are allowed to say that you think this movie is bad. You may criticize the quality of the acting – which is non-existent – or the bad sound effects and you may even say you were personally insulted by this movie. That being said, you have no right whatsoever to threaten anyone with death (shouting “behead those who insult Islam”) while demanding respect.
On the other hand, glorifying the movie, as right-wing Islamophobic Dutch politician Geert Wilders did, should be equally viewed as pathetic if, as is his case, not accompanied with criticism of the movie – intellectual honesty requires that.
Among the many rational responses, I’d like to cite one. Minnesota Democrat Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, condemned both the film and the protests. He stated that the “amateurish and stupid” film was “deeply offensive” to “anyone who respects the faith of others”, while at the same time emphasizing that “the United States government had no role in creating this film. In fact, the government has condemned it and the American people have rejected it; it violates the American value of religious tolerance.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Among the many irrational responses, I’d like to comment on a particular one which seems to be rather common in the West, namely how can the Muslim world be so ungrateful towards America after all the nice things it did. USA Today reported in shock “How can people the USA helped free from murderous dictators treat it in such a way?” NBC joined the open-mouthed OMGs by stating that “It is somewhat ironic with American diplomats inside the embassy who helped to give these demonstrators, these protesters, a voice, and allowed them to actually carry out these anti-American clashes that we’re seeing right now.”
I really did not want to make this a USA vs the Muslim World debate – because it’s not – but the mainstream media seems to strive on that paranoia. They were referring to the incidence in Egypt. The mother of all ironies is that Egypt is the very place where the traditional good old friendly dictator on our side in the fight for democracy had its most famous regional figure, Hosni Mubarak. How dare the Egyptians not appreciate this tyrant! USA Today and NBC seem to forget that the US supported Mubarak until the very last second. Hillary Clinton called The Mubaraks “friends of my family” and Obama openly supported him until the moment when his downfall was apparent. Adding to that, Egyptians also seem to be ungrateful towards the “Made in the USA” logos on the tear gas cannisters used against them by Mubarak’s security forces at the time.
Although many things can be added to this controversy, it should be noted that with the loud, barbaric protesters on one side and the textbook propaganda on the other side, the lonesome middleman calling for intellectual honesty and integrity seems to be the one being stabbed in the back.