This is not the first time it has happened. The Danes and the French had a go with those blasphemous cartoons which ridiculed Islam. They unleashed a torrent of protest in the Muslim world which took weeks to die out. British and American newspaper editors saw the pictures and wisely preferred not to print them. Other European editors were tempted, but decided to follow the British example. But apparently, no Western government can possibly suppress a hate film, which is directed against a particular religion, when it is made in secret and they have no knowledge of its existence. Such was the case with the hate film Innocence of Muslims, which set the Middle East and now Pakistan in turmoil.
I watched Barack Obama on Euronews after American embassies were targeted by mobs. One could see the strain on his face. With the election not so far away, this unpleasant incident was the last thing that he could have wanted. Of course, he had to speak about the fundamental rights of the American citizen. And he had to utter those clichés about personal liberties which, apparently, don’t apply to the inmates of Guantanamo Bay. But the embarrassment was blatantly obvious and the regret appeared to be sincere. Hillary Clinton, in another broadcast, called the film disgusting and reprehensible. I have not even the slightest doubt that she was also genuine.
The movie that inspired fierce protests in Pakistan, parts of Africa where Islam is predominant, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran and other countries in the Middle East, was produced in relative obscurity in a small town in southern California. It was promoted and possibly financed by a network of right wing Christian extremists who have in the past betrayed pronounced feelings of hostility towards Muslims. It is possible that this group was at one time also anti-Semitic. One of the producers of this poisonous dribble was a Vietnam veteran named Steve Klein who has a reputation for foul-mouthing Muslims. And one of the promoters of the movie was the notorious Florida preacher Terry Jones whose act of burning the Holy Quran led to widespread demonstrations and protests in Afghanistan.
Attempts were made by senior US officials, including General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to persuade Jones to withdraw his support for the film. But the preacher said he would wait until he saw the whole motion picture. The 14-minute trailer went relatively unnoticed and it was only when the text was translated into Arabic and posted on YouTube by leaders of the Coptic Diaspora in America that all hell broke loose. One is not sure if an actual feature film was subsequently made.
Insulting the prophets of different religions is a reprehensible and indefensible act. Muslims respect both Hazrat Musa (Moses) and Hazrat Isa (Jesus Christ). I have never heard a fellow Muslim ever insult either the Jewish or the Christian prophets or even speak in disparaging and reproachful tones against the Hindu deities.
What I can’t understand is, why these adventurers did what they did. Was it because of missionary zeal? Because they were asked to. Or was it because of pure mischief? Didn’t they realise that their actions put at risk not only their diplomats serving abroad but also their citizens who do not have police protection?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.
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