The question that comes to mind is that if the Muslims are so sensitive about their feelings, should they not be equally sensitive to the character assassination of Hindus and Jews and Christians and their faith. It takes two to tango as the saying goes
Antithetical to Western society's core value of freedom of expression, the Obama administration took a contrite stance on the issue of controversial movie 'Innocence of Muslims' - in line with its regular policy to appease Islamic world reflected by its friendly attitude towards Islamist groups like Muslim Brotherhood - after the outbreak of violent protests all over Islamic countries and pugnacious demonstrations by Muslims living in the West. The Obama administration went as far as asking YouTube to take the film down. Hilary Clinton took no time to denounce the movie as detestable. However, the sheepish gesture of US failed to calm down the Islamists. It rather emboldened them. Protesters turned hostile in many places in the West like Sydney in Australia.
The film provided an opportunity to Islamists to achieve a false feeling of 'victory' over the US - as many radical Muslims feel that attacking the US embassies and treading on and burning its flag gave them a victory (or superiority) over America. To a great extent, anti-Americanism in the Muslim world is an offshoot of superiority complex of the Islamists that the Muslims should be the masters of the world, the way they were at some point in time way back in the past ----and relive it is the favorite pastime of every Muslim. These feelings of supremacy have been induced and nurtured in the Muslim minds by the media, education, literature and misleading history books besides religious teachings in most parts of the Islamic world.
Joining the chorus of entire Islamic world, many in the Obama administration, the Congress, the media, and academia in USA have apologized, blamed or insinuated that a satirical film was the catalyst for all the violence, in other words, justifying the violence itself. Appeasement of the Islamists has impeded a cognitive process in human minds that is vital to prevent such furious reactions. It validated and gave Islamic blasphemy laws precedence over Western freedoms.
Human civilization would not have progressed if humans did not learn from their failures. If one keeps blaming others for one's failures then one is not likely to correct oneself to prevent repetition of those failures.
This is the tragedy of the Islamic world.
The Muslims should have realized that the perception of Islam in the West as a violent cult is not due to its deep seated hatred and prejudice against Islam as presumed by them, it is rather a result of the violent acts of radical Muslims and their aggressive attitude and supremacist claims almost all over the world. And instead of storming US embassies they should have been fighting radicalism in their own societies to improve the image of Islam.
Apologetic attitudes toward radical Islam that blames the West for building Islamophobia, instead of admitting its own mistakes, has actually made things worse as it prevented the rationalization of things to diagnose the root cause of the problem to eradicate it . As a result, the Muslim world keeps blaming the West and the US for the negative image of their religion instead of engaging in efforts to reform their own extremist thoughts.
After 9/11, followed by a series of terrorist attacks such as bombing in London and Madrid, there was a danger that the Muslim communities in the West might face ugly hate crimes against their members. But except for a few isolated incidents the overall Western spirit of fair-play and democracy prevailed and the Muslims were generally spared ugly retaliation against them in the US, the UK and Europe. However, in most Islamic countries it’s not safe for a Westerner to move freely on the streets for fear of abduction or target killing or even lynching by the mobs. Even native religious minorities are living under the shadow of the fear of death, tens of millions of Muslim immigrants continue to not only live safely in the West but enjoy such civil liberties as to assert themselves for every 'Islamic cause’. The recent hostile demonstrations by the Muslims in the West are a reflection of this fact. If the Western society behaved like the Islamic world, we would have been frequently hearing about attacks on Muslims immigrants, Islamic centers and mosques.
However, to the mainstream Western mind, violence and aggression is an integral part of the Muslim psyche and the Muslims are just not letting this impression go away. While the West has very sensibly avoided the course of physical aggression against Muslims in their own countries, it is using the civil rights permitted by both its law and society to express its grievance through intellectual and art channels. Such expressions in the form of cartoons and movies etc spread through popular media which Muslims find offensive to their sensibilities is considered by the Westerners a civilized way to register their protest; better than rioting, arson and physical assault on their opponents. This is the minimum reaction for the Islamic terrorist acts in the West.
Every now and then, whenever such a provocation occurs, the Muslim Umma reacts in the same hostile fashion without fail, thus reinforcing the claim of the West that Islam is a religion of fanatics, bigots and violent unruly mobs!
Is the freedom of expression in the West a sham? Has it been devised to defame Islam only? Is the West practicing double standards?
Few years back Geert Wilder's short movie on YouTube stirred similar protests in the Islamic world. The movie showed provocative speeches of Islamic scholars citing passages from Islamic scriptures together with footage of terrorist acts of Islamic militants. Around that time a movie was also released which depicted some purportedly secret parts of Jesus' private life. Despite the secular nature of the society in Europe, a large number of its residents pay Jesus a great reverence. Apart from negating the delineation of the movie with logical reasoning on some intellectual forums, no Christian actually objected to the exhibition of the movie.
Obviously, the EU and Western governments and people there did not find this portrayal of the life of Jesus - who holds quite the opposite image of what was shown in the movie - offensive at all.
On the other hand Muslim Imams and radicals do frequently quote passages from Islamic literature to justify their hateful speeches and violent actions thus confirming this general impression of the rest of the world that Islam preaches violence.
Muslims have complained that the film misrepresented their religion by misinterpreting some verses or by taking them out of context and unfairly linking them to speeches and actions of a small number of extremists. If that is the case - instead of condemning Wilders – they should have better worked on attaching the correct context or interpretation to such verses in order to prevent those extremists from misusing them and causing havoc in the West as well as in their own countries.
On the contrary, it's us who have double standards.
We know that the Westerners are non-Muslims and therefore don't revere Islamic personalities the way we do. We, however, expect them to follow the practice of respect for others' venerated personalities, sacred books and symbols so as not to hurt others feelings. But do we ourselves comply with this exercise? Look at how our states use the public and cultural media to propagate Islamic chauvinism. For instance, in recent years three movies made in Pakistan namely 'Sangram', 'Moosa Khan' and 'But Shikan' had one scene in common; where heroes of all three movies fighting against monstrous Hindus , at one point in the movie, were shown shattering the idols of Hindu deities and trampling them under their feet . Our movie censor board conveniently passed those movies.
The situation is pretty much the same in the Arabic speaking Middle Eastern countries where Jews in the popular media are depicted as evil and malicious; worthy of scorn and contempt of all humanity. An Iranian movie making fun of Holocaust of Jews is still available on YouTube which nobody has ever demanded to be removed from there.
The question that comes to mind is that if the Muslims are so sensitive about their feelings, should they not be equally sensitive to the character assassination of Hindus and Jews and Christians and their faith. It takes two to tango as the saying goes.
Whether the contents shown in the current controversial movie are right or wrong is not our subject here; but a more important question associated to this issue is: whether or not the freedom of expression should be upheld.
The application of two opposite standards for two different religions in the same society is not only unfair and hypocritical, but also will not work for long. In due course of time, the censorship of criticism and offensive depictions of Islam will lead to similar censorship surrounding Christianity and other faiths in the West.
In the end, the liberal Western democracies will end up losing the most treasured achievement of civilized societies—the freedom of expression—which was achieved after two millennia of struggle (which started with Socrates' insistence on speaking his mind, for which he was charged to have insulted the gods and put to death in 399 BC), and at the cost of immense sacrifice and suffering.
Now in the 21st century, losing this prized achievement of human civilization would not only be a tragic loss, but also an utter disgrace.
"Preserving freedom is harder than achieving it," said some Indian political genius. With the burgeoning super sensitive and intolerant Muslim populace—the western democracies are undoubtedly going through trying times.
Let us hope that humankind will not have to sacrifice blood once again to achieve the right to offend any racial, religious and ethnic groups due to the failure of Western governments to uphold their central value.
|The writer’s areas of interest are history, religion and cross-cultural conflicts.|