To be sure, I wish we Muslims could shed our tendency to get so worked up over the things that offend us. Rage can be used against us and it certainly can be used to harm others among us. If we get upset every time a moron makes a vile movie about Islam, draws a cartoon of the prophet or makes intentionally inflammatory statements, we are in trouble. There will always be individuals who use our anger to provoke us, hoping to elicit a reaction that demonstrates just how "uncivilized" Muslims are. But this is what we have to deal with. We cannot kill people just because we do not like them. This is obvious, and must be our attitude.
The trailer for a movie titled "Innocence of Muslims" has been making the rounds on the Internet. The movie, which was apparently directed by an Israeli living in California (who is now in hiding) and financed by 100 Jewish funders, depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and a womanizer. The filmmaker turned out not to be an Israeli. So far, A man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula had admitted to playing a key role in film. Research by the AP found Nakoula has a long criminal history and a history of using the "Bacile" persona. Predictably, the trailer has infuriated Muslims across the Arab world, resulting in the indefensible killing of the American Embassy staff in Benghazi, Libya. But why has this film been made in the first place?
The mysterious director wants to provoke radical reactions in Muslim countries. He is adding gasoline to the fire with statements like "Islam is a cancer" and "100 Jewish people funded my project." Obviously, most Jewish people are smart enough not to put a dime toward such a lousy project. But the director himself is a disgrace to his people, as is the Coptic activist lawyer who has been attached to the film. Each is making life much worse for his peers, not helping them. For this reason, more than 130 Coptic groups have spoken out against this film and the troublemaker activist.
News of this film overshadowed a very important trial in Egypt whose verdict was handed down on Sept. 12. The Arab world's most famous comedic actor, Adel Imam, was cleared of charges that his movies disrespect religions and promote vice. This was a key moment as most entertainers in Egypt watched the trial with great interest. Unfortunately, the racist film, embassy events and the casualties have been the news. Charges against him and others were brought by some ultra-conservative groups who want to bring an end to Egypt's thriving entertainment industry. A source of income for millions of Egyptians.
The movie goes out of its way to insult Islam and the prophet. The film has nothing to say about Islam, but rather an assortment of ill-informed and vile interpretations of events that took place nearly 1,500 years ago. The crew had the right to make a movie about this, but I also have the right to scream fire in a packed movie theater or tell people on the bus that I have a bomb. This is all free speech, but we all self-censor our speech so as not to endanger the lives of others. I'm a free speech absolutist, but I'm not an anti-religion absolutist. Aside from the obvious whitewashing --the cast largely consists of white actors -- this movie has a bad taste and no artistic integrity.
I hope the film crew are feeling extra Americans today as they watch their countrymen murdered by an angry mob upset with a movie they made to advance their lunatic agenda. Yet again, no amount of humiliation can justify such senseless violence. Violent religious extremists are on the rise; they are bullying their Tunisians critics, intimidation entertainers and free speech advocates in Egypt, silencing foes in Syria.
On a personal note, a cousin of mine was murdered (and his body disrespected) by a mob in June 2007 in Gaza. I am not one to approve of mob justice and thuggish bullies who shoot first and ask questions later. Like the one in Libya, the mob that killed my cousin manipulated the Quran and tailored its misleading citations of Islamic tradition to justify the brutal murder of a fellow Muslim and a fellow human being.
None of my extended family protested the film; they are busy in their businesses and school. None of the college graduates I know took part in a protest. To be clear, they are all dissatisfied with the film and its message. But they chose to ignore the idiots on both sides. Unlike the mob, most Muslims are not looking for a distraction; they are busy trying to make the world a better place for their children. My family and Muslim friends are saddened and ashamed by the act of a few thugs who seem not to want to give their own religion a break.