“The Innocence of Muslims” and the Bengazi Attack

A few important clarifications at the start:

  1. As a Christian I do not consider Muhammed a prophet, I do not consider the Quran divine revelation, and I do not consider Islam the true religion.
  2. As a Christian, I see no need for or merit to gratuitous insults directed at those of other religious persuasions.
  3. I do not think that anything justifies attacks like the one in Bengazi, Libya.
  4. I do not think that anything justifies the violence and discrimination against Christian minorities in Muslim countries, such as against the Copts in Egypt.
  5. It seems clear to me that the “anger of the people” in some Muslim countries is being instrumentalized and exploited by Islamist terrorists

Now on to the issue I want to comment on:

Yesterday I searched the internet for the movie The Innocence of Muslims which supposedly incited the violent uprising in some Muslim countries, and which in turn led to the attack on the US consulate in Bengazi, Libya where the US ambassador and two of his colleagues were killed.

I am absolutely in favor of freedom of thought, freedom of speech and the freedom of the arts, and I am absolutely in favor of critical engagement with the teachings and practices of Islam, but this movie, which implies that it is a reaction to Muslim violence against Coptic Christians in Egypt, is nothing but a pornographic mocking of and gratuitous insult to the founder of Islam, Muhammed. To call it “art” would be to insult every true artist.

It is not surprising to me that this piece of dirt causes strong and violent reactions, especially in countries where freedom of thought, of speech, and of the arts are unknown, and whose citizens cannot understand that the US government has nothing to do with the production and distribution of this insulting movie.

The fact that the makers of this porno flick identify themselves as Coptic Christians and claim to support the Coptic cause will simply lead to more violence against the Christian minority in Egypt. It does not justify it, but it will lead to it.

My American friends insist that the US system of values, and the US legal system, do not permit the federal or state governments to intervene against such “expressions”. However, even in Western Europe that is an argument that is not persuasive, since most western countries have laws which penalize the incitement of religious hatred.

Even I, as one who is fairly familiar with the US system, and who identifies with it to a large extent, fail to understand why one is increasingly likely to get into trouble with the law for calling certain sexual practices and orientations inappropriate or sinful, even when one stresses that this does not justify violence against the people concerned; but that such a movie, which is nothing but one big incitement to religious hatred against a large proportion of the world’s population, can be produced without any official attempt to stop or penalize it.

I see a parallel here to the correlation between rape and the increasingly inappropriate dress (or rather, lack of dress) worn by women in public. Nothing, absolutely nothing can justify rape, but it would be naive to deny this possible connection, and we would be irresponsible if we did not warn our daughters against inappropriate or inadequate clothing in public.

It is equally naive to deny the fact that Muslim populations can be aroused to violence through such insulting junk, and that there are Islamist terror groups which will exploit this arousal for their own nefarious ends. It would be irresponsible if we as a society ignored the fact that this sort of rubbish does not deserve the name art (or the freedoms we extend to art), and that the freedoms of speech and expression must have limits where they are abused to gratuitously insult and hurt other people.

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