On Friday, there were protests here in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where I now live. A thousand members of the radical Islamist Khelafat Andolon group decided to storm the American Embassy, not a mile from my house. They didn't get very far before being stopped by security forces. And the protests were, thankfully, not violent yet, though the group has threatened to blockade the embassy in the days to come.
In a nation like Bangladesh where political strife is much more common, it is less easy to digest that a secular state is so up in arms about a religion-centric video that is, at its core, poorly produced, ludicrously exaggerated and pettily absurd. If you watch the video, it is insulting, to be sure. There is no excuse for filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula's hate-filled film portraying the Prophet Muhammed as barbaric and a womanizer. Should it really have sparked violence across the globe? Of course not.
Let me be clear, this is not to detract from the video's insensitivity and offensive depictions of the Islamic faith. But, let's put things into perspective. This world is an offensive place. There is no way to circumvent that reality. When I wrote about immigration policy, a number of the comments I got were nothing short of uncivilized. If someone decides to write about roses and sunflowers, I can almost guarantee that, housed within the comments on the hypothetical piece, is someone who despises and is highly offended by both. However, the way to address what you do not agree with is not through violent protest; it is through discourse and dialogue.
When an offensive video like Nakoula's incites mass, violent protests that (in Libya) result in killings, a question has to be asked about the severity and ludicrous proportions of the responses. It is about as far from retributive justice as can be. What has to be understood is that at the core of the video and these protests are radical extremists of both the Christian and Islamic faiths. Their aim is to destabilize. Religion is meant to provide moral and spiritual guidance. It is meant to create understanding and acceptance. It is meant to promote tolerance. Radical factions (whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish or any of a number of other world faiths) ignore these very foundations of religion in their rhetoric, to dangerous ends.
Returning to the issue at hand, we have to question what is behind these protests. Surely, the reaction is not because of a single 14-minute video. It is illogical to react in this violent a manner to a video. Extremists have used it, instead, as a catalyst to further their vicious agenda. Unfortunately, they are succeeding. Extremists prey upon the uncontrolled passions and zeal of a people, regardless of faith. If the Muslim world, with all its law-abiding, productive moderates and progressives, allows itself to fall victim to its extremist factions, there will never be peace. At the same time, those of other religions, cultures, and backgrounds must recognize that the majority of Muslims do not hold the same views as those who want to create hatred, conflict, and discord. In this case, the few do not represent the many. Radicals are not revolutionaries; they are hate-driven war-mongers.