September 26, 2012
VANCOUVER, BC, Sep 26, 2012/ Troy Media/ – Last week, amidst looming deadlines and piles of work, I took a break one morning to view The Innocence of Muslims. I wanted to know what it was about this film that has driven so many people to blind rage, that has led people to murder and mayhem.
At first I wasn’t sure I was viewing the right film, thinking this was a parody of the real film. When I realized this was indeed it, I wondered how so many adults could be persuaded to give up their time to star in a project that more closely resembled kids putting on a play in their backyard. From the crude sets and thrift-store costumes, to the disjointed script, to the L.A. surfer lilt of Mohammad, all 14 minutes of The Innocence of Muslims is farcically infantile.
And yet, even if it were a Hollywood blockbuster that made the Muslim Prophet out to be a perverted buffoon, it would still never justify a violent response.
While I acknowledge that most Muslims do not translate their offense into violence, it cannot be denied that a frighteningly large number of people, in several different countries, have taken to the streets in their reaction to this joke-like film. Even those exercising their fury by peaceful means are grossly over-reacting and, in the process, launching an absurd little film to global prominence.
The (for-profit) activist and advocacy platform, Causes.com, is hosting a ’cause’ calling on Youtube to remove the film, with this explanation: ‘Once again infidels have launched a movie against Islam and this time they have crossed all limits. All Muslims and people of other faith who are against this act please join to show your concern.’ As of today 122,144 people have signed on.
Few faith-based groups have come out in defense of freedom of expression (a right they routinely use to freely advocate their own beliefs), issuing statements instead that condemn the film rather than the violence.
Rather than defending the right to freedom of expression and asking how such an amateur movie, made by an ex-con, could lead to such upheaval, Western media rushed to expose the identities of those behind the film.
Let’s remember that no one commits more violence against Muslims than other Muslims, crimes met with a deafening silence. Often this violence is blatantly defamatory of Islam, as when the Taliban sent suicide bombers into crowded Muslim religious ceremonies.
For example, on September 20th the Wall Street Journal reported on the Andar uprising in Ghazni province in Afghanistan, where local villagers have been resisting the Taliban, trying to get schools reopened and to have some semblance of peace return to their land.
‘In May, Taliban fighters surrounded the movement’s members as they met in a house in Payendai village. One of the rebels, Abdul Samad, the son of a tribal elder, went outside holding a Quran as a symbol of peace and asking the insurgents to negotiate. He was shot dead instead, villagers say.’
While so many Muslims put their energy into protesting the film, very real crimes are being committed against Muslims that garner no protest, not even virtual protests. As 10,000 Pakistanis demonstrated against the film in Lahore, 200 kilometres away in Faisalabad, a young woman was forced to walk naked down a street in front of her village as retribution for her brother teasing a local girl. That a goofy movie is more blasphemous than this barbaric act seems, well, sacrilegious.
What this and countless other examples speak to, is an obsession over the desecration of symbols, rather than the desecration of people. Such panic over a film can only come from a religion in a crisis of confidence, where there is more mourning for attacks on the reputation of Islam than for attacks on actual Muslim people.
Lauryn Oates is a Canadian aid worker managing education projects in Afghanistan. She is projects director at Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan.
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