The "Innocence of Muslims" Reaction

The Price of Bigotry

PORTRAIT OF MOHAMMED BY ARTIST IRENA MANDICH
PORTRAIT OF MOHAMMED BY ARTIST IRENA MANDICH | Source

Protests over Religious Satire

The cost of the ingrained bigotry of an unknown private filmmaker is the loss of life, injuries, and the igniting of new hatreds between the western world and the Arab countries.

The making of a little known film ridiculing the prophet Mohammed has sparked violent protests all over the Arab world, including the killing of an American ambassador and the destruction of property at American and other western nations' buildings.

While the educated and peaceful people in both the western and Arab nations realize that only blind stupidity would lead protesters to affiliate an obscure film with the governments of western nations, it is this sort of stupidity that becomes the job of those leaders to eradicate, if possible.

A few years ago, a European cartoonist raised furor similarly over a satirical depiction of Mohammed. Now, its an American filmmaker who has attacked the prophet.

Bigotry and hate, expressed through inappropriate criticisms of other people's religions, is just as stupid as blaming the country from which these satires come for this idiotic prejudice.

The Arab Spring, in which the Muslim nations rebelled against dictators who had suppressed human rights for many years, occurred just months earlier. The western world was happy to see the Arab countries gain their freedom from tyranny, just as America had done, and many other countries that moved toward democracy.

The Arab Spring began in December of 2010 with protests in Tunisia and Algeria. In January of 2011, more protests followed in Morocco, Yemen, Egypt, Oman, Lebanon, and Syria. Tunisia's government was overthrown that month. In February 2011 President Mubarak of Egypt resigned and the uprising against Gaddafi in Libya began.

There was much violence in the Arab Spring uprisings, which appeared to establish an ongoing climate of disorder. There was an attempted assassination of Yemen's president in 2011. He later resigned.

Gaddafi lost control of Libya in August 2011 and was captured and killed in October. Also, in October 2011 many Christian protesters against the destruction of one of their churches were killed by the army. The producer of the film "Innocence of Muslims" that ignited the September 11, 2012, protests was an Egyptian Christian immigrant to America. In Egypt, the Christians are called "Coptic" Christians.

Protests and killings continued in Egypt until May 2012, when they finally held a democratic election.

But in Syria matters became worse. The government forces, to quell the rebellion, killed many civilians. There were massacres. Refugees fled the country in droves.

It may be too much to ask to expect Arab nations to go suddenly from tyranny to a democracy with personal freedoms and rights for all people, including freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

The Arab Spring itself has been no model of peaceful change. But the same could be said for many revolutions including America's and France's. With the terrible freedom-fighting continuing in Syria, the protests about a movie or an old cartoon seem absurdly motivated.

Even within the Arab nations, if all goes well in establishing democracy, there still exists a deeply ingrained tendency to solve infighting disputes among various branches of the Muslim faith through violence, such as suicide bombings between Shiites and Sunnis.

The idea of any intelligent person even criticizing anyone's religious faith would be considered ignorant and low-class by any educated people anywhere in the world. Therefore, the problem in Arab countries seems to be a lack of education.

Freedom of religion was a principle the world realized would have to be put in place in order for society to live reasonably peacefully. This realization occurred more than two hundred years ago and still is respected among the free-thinking intellectuals everywhere. But now the Muslim protesters have brought disgrace upon their own religion by making it seem full of bigotry and hate.

Education can not be brought about by military force. There must be peace established by Arab leaders inside their countries before people can be educated to the outside world and all its good and bad tendencies. Bias and stupidity exist in every country, but they should not become the dominant forces.

To most westerners, the Arab nations seem to be living in the dark ages. But the highest educated people in those nations are too sophisticated to adhere to bias and hatred. All of us must realize that there are ill-mannered people who would commit the mistake of ridiculing the religious beliefs of others.

Movie-makers and cartoonists can satirize religions under the right of free expression. Usually such expressions are not very popular because the audience recognizes that it's ridiculous to expect popularity after insulting billions of people over their religion.

The protests and violence in the Arab nations have ruined their reputations. Of the entire populations on those countries, only an insignificant percentage of the people participated in those protests. It's logical to assume that the vast majority there and everywhere in the world just want to live in peace.

If any good comes of the violence, it may be that the world and Arab nations will realize the need for education and tolerance.

In mid-April of 2013 the Boston Marathon tragedy and the quick realization that two young Muslims caused it, the survivor admitting it was done "for religious reasons," has added to the impossibility of finding a prejudice-free middle class in America. Meanwhile Arab mosques pour in support for law enforcement and the families of all those affected by the terrible era of hatred in which we live, from Nine-Eleven onward. If the people of Islam could ensure a higher level of education in their nations, tolerance might one day be achieved. The struggle is on the battleground of rich versus poor, and not philosophical distinctions between various religions. Education in the humanities now is a luxury. It's possible to move forward, away from terrorism, if such education becomes a necessity.


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