The controversial film, Innocence of Muslims, put on YouTube by individuals in the US, backed by anti-Islamic pastor Terry Jones, who is based in Florida, has created a crisis across the Muslim world. There have been huge protests across North Africa and the Middle East, perhaps, most notably in Egypt, where angry crowds are bolstered by supporters of the ruling Islamic Brotherhood. In scenes witnessed on previous occasions as well, the mobs stripped off US flags from buildings and burnt them, along with effigies of Pastor Jones, whose desire to spark hate-filled behaviour amongst Muslims, has once again been successful.
Surely, some provision must exist within US laws to reprimand derogatory attacks on particular religious or ethnic groups, intended to incite anger. It is difficult to imagine that such false and offensive diatribes against African-Americans, Jews or other communities would be tolerated to any degree had it occurred in the US itself. Sectary of State Hillary Clinton’s condemnation of the film is appreciated, but perhaps, more concrete action needs to be taken on the part of the US to pacify the vexed crowds and reassure them that the US is against such blatant misuse of freedom of expression.
The chaos has spread to Karachi as well, where after the Friday prayers, the Jamaatud Daawa staged an angry protest and demanded that Jones be handed over for justice to be delivered. In Islamabad, too, other groups staged a series of rallies at various places, including outside the Lal Masjid — a symbolic place for many hard line forces. Some of the marches were backed by the Jamaat-e-Islami as well.
It is hardly surprising that we see such outrage. Even worse is the fact that it appears to have been very deliberately provoked by placing the highly offensive film on a public website and then going out of the way to promote it. What Washington does not appear to realise is that such actions will not curtail the growing hatred for it, thereby making global issues harder to resolve. At a time when we need cooperation and peace, such actions only create more anarchy and distrust amongst nations.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 17th, 2012.