If only the world would heed my advice and keep their religion at home, what a place this could be. Alas not only do we seem destined to bicker about the one true faith to the end of time, some of us continually feel the need to criticize and insult each other over it as well.
Hard times usually bring out the crazy in people, whether it’s economic hardship in the United States or political adversity in the Middle East (or vice versa). Religious radicals tend to thrive in these environments, but as this past week has shown, the misapplication of the freedom of speech is all that is required to demonstrate the ugliness of our societies.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (AKA Sam Bacile), A Coptic Christian immigrant from Egypt posing as a Jewish real-estate mogul from Israel created a trailer for a film called “Innocence of Muslims”. The film was designed to enrage the Muslim community with the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, a homosexual and a child abuser.
On Sept. 8, a two minute clip of the trailer was aired on Egyptian television and it resulted in a few hundred radical Muslims revolting at American Embassies in Egypt and Libya on Sept. 11. In Egypt, the American flag at the embassy was replaced by an Islamic one, but in Libya the protest appeared to be used as cover for an assault on the American embassy which saw the death of their ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others.
If this amateur anti-Muslim film were written and directed in Canada, there is a good chance Nakoula would be in jail or facing heavy fines thanks to our laws against hate speech. In the United States however there are no such laws, people are free to say whatever they want, whenever they want and nobody would have it any other way—it’s their first amendment right.
We can debate all we want on hate speech laws or unfettered free speech, but there is no denying that any type of freedom requires responsibility in order for freedom to flourish. Those who made this film with the sole intention of angering an entire faith clearly failed in this regard. Not only did they anger an insignificant portion of the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, but they managed to put a black eye on one of America’s most sacred rights.
I read a sign being carried by one of the protesters the other day and it summed up the situation better than I ever could, it read “You have the freedom of speech; we now have the freedom to act”. People seem to forget these “Arab Spring” countries recently went through a huge political shift.
Egyptians, Libyans and others are still not accustom to the freedoms we enjoy, take for granted or in this case abuse. Many of these Muslims can’t yet understand that an American man’s actions aren’t sanctioned by the American Government and it leads to further anti-American sentiment.
I’m not shelling out excuses for the actions of the protesters; violence is wrong regardless of the circumstances. Extremists of all stripes have a tendency to overreact when it comes to their religion, especially Muslims when you mock their prophet, let alone depict him in any way.
One thing I’ve noticed though, no matter how angry Muslims get, they never turn to the same tactics. It’s rare to see a Muslim burn a crucifix or hang an effigy of Jesus, they just prefer to burn flags.
Mr. Nakoula will likely go unpunished for his irresponsible actions. Whether you agree or not will depend on your religion, nationality or views on civil rights. Whether these events occur again will hinge on the ability of radical religious leaders on all sides to start preaching coexistence rather than hate and prejudice.
After all, Christians, Muslims and Jews all believe in the same god, there is no rational reason why they can’t all get along. Then again, who ever said religion was rational?