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Are Muslims Too Sensitive?


Optics are immeasurably potent; riveting images of young, angry Muslim men protesting and rampaging in front of U.S. and other western embassies in the Muslim world stunned millions of TV voyeurs. How many times have we seen these scenes play out in Queta, Karachi, Kabul, Cairo, and Khartoum?

Once again, unruly mobs vastly removed from Islam’s 1.4 billion peaceful adherents have played into the hands of religion’s detractors by reinforcing two largely misconstrued perceptions about Islam; a) it is a violent religion and; b) its adherents are too sensitive and least tolerant of other viewpoints.

The lighting rod to the anger and protests was the denigration of Prophet Mohammed in a 14-minute film deceptively titled “The Innocence of Muslims.”  According to the Associated Press and other media outlets, the “brains”—-“director”—- behind the video is a felon, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, a Coptic Christian from Egypt, who was out on parole after serving time in prison for fraud.

Two fundamental principles of human rights—the right to free speech and the right to protest—were on display amidst the chaos and violence. They are the cornerstones of western thought and ideas and as such are rigorously protected by western constitutions. The western world’s adherence to these tenets paradoxically precludes it from taking action to stem the tide of Muslim hatred that has gained strong currency since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Conversely, protests are legitimate avenues to register anger and publicly air out grievances. They are means to seek redress for social, economic and political wrongs. However, taken to extremes, protests lose their legitimacy and the added benefits that come along.

It is one thing to protest a perceived wrong, but it is utterly criminal and a complete violation of internationally accepted norms to ransack a foreign embassy, destroy its properties and worse, to kill its workers. Have the perpetrators ever heard of the Geneva Convention? Embassies are sacred grounds. The horrific killings of four U.S. embassy officials including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens in Benghazi, Libya, were particularly heinous and cannot be explained away.

While it is appropriate to roundly condemn the over-the-top reactions to the video, it is just as important to point out that there are legions of Islam haters in western societies who revel in ridiculing and caricaturing the Prophet only to scurry away when the spotlight is shone on them. It is no surprise that the producer of the movie has recoiled into his shell—reportedly gone into hiding with his family.

Remember Salman Rushdie, he of the “Satanic Verses?” It is not out of place to firmly assert that the denigration of Islam began with the publication of his incendiary tome in 1988. Rushdie, a British of Indian descent opened the floodgates to the vitriol against Islam. For well over a decade, Rushdie lived in obscurity and travelled incognito to avoid a fatwa, a religious edict calling for his death.

The late Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh collaborated with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali born writer to produce a controversial film about Islam. Van Gogh’s murder at the hands of a young Muslim man in 2004 did not deter others from continuing to disparage Islam because in 2005 a Danish newspaper Jyllands Postem further inflamed Muslim passions with cartoon that poked fun at Prophet Mohammed.

Then, of course, there was the loony Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida who burned the Koran in 2011. His action set off protests in Afghanistan which ultimately cost 34 lives including a number of United Nations personnel working in the war torn nation.

The preceding is not revisionist history by any stretch and does not attempt to exonerate the unruly behavior of the mobs at the embassies. Instead, they are a necessary narrative to focus attention on the unbridled hatred of Islam in western societies and the many efforts to marginalize the religion and dehumanize its adherents.

Certainly, there will continue to be provocations and reactions will be just as vicious as what we saw unfold in the Muslim world. We are confronted with two stark realities here; western nations will never clamp down on free speech and Muslim nations will equally be loath to stop their citizens from taking to the streets to protest the slightest insult hurled at their revered prophet. A vicious cycle has been created and, sadly the world has to live with the consequences. How sad!!!!



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