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Sunday 21 December  
Anti-American protesters in Iran
Michel Hoebink's picture
Hilversum, Netherlands
Hilversum, Netherlands

The lack of understanding is mutual

Published on : 14 September 2012 - 10:16am | By Michel Hoebink ((C) ANP)
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The Islamic World is in an uproar over an anti-Islam film made in America. People have died in violent protests in Cairo, Benghazi and Sana’a, including the US Ambassador to Libya. The protests are spreading to other Muslim countries, but the anti-American nature of these protests is evidence of a dismal misunderstanding.

It’s a new episode of an old story. After the Danish cartoons and the Dutch anti-Islam film Fitna, now we have the film The innocence of Muslims. The maker is an American, a Coptic Christian who believes Islam is “a cancerous tumour”.

Malicious provocation
Islam is a well-established world religion, precious to millions of people for whom their Faith is the basis of their humanity. A film that depicts the founding prophet of that religion as a voracious womaniser and mass murderer is a malicious attempt to offend those believers. That Muslims want to protest against such a film is not surprising. But why do they aim their protests at American embassies?

Muslims argue that this American film is evidence of a lack of understanding and ignorance about Islam. But the fact that the protests are aimed at the country where the film was made is evidence of an ignorance about the most fundamental principles of democracy and free speech that is equally alarming.

In a democracy, it’s not the president or the government who’s the final authority, but the law of the land. And that law guarantees freedom of expression. In other words, the US administration cannot simply ban the film as the protestors seem to believe.

Precious freedom
The right to freedom of expression means an individual has the right to say whatever they want, as long as they do not incite others to violence. Americans and Europeans are proud of that freedom and believe it means conflicts can be resolved with discussion, not with violence and repression. This freedom is as precious to them as Islam is to Muslims.

But freedom of expression means that sometimes things are said or written, or filmed, that the vast majority find morally repugnant. There is a famous quote attributed to the French philosopher Voltaire that sums up the dilemma very neatly: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it’.

Pay no attention
The protesting Muslims need to understand that the film is the work of an extremist individual and their angry reactions are exactly what he was aiming to provoke. They need to understand that most Americans, including the government, share their disapproval. And that the best thing to do about such a film is simply ignore it, as most Americans do.



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Anonymous 20 September 2012 - 8:12am
Anonymous 17 September 2012 - 4:17pm / lalaland

Modern religions are only ancient follies rejuvenated.Religion is an illusion.

Anonymous 17 September 2012 - 12:17am / Canada

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. What an extraordinary saying by Voltaire. But can Muslims even relate to it? To do so they would have to wrap their heads around a very different way of thinking, one that is totally foreign to them. Judging from the chasm between the two cultures, I'm afraid our differences are not about to end.

user avatar
knirb 16 September 2012 - 7:51am

If statements about about Muhammad being a mass murderer had been grasped out of thin air, one might justifiably call them malicious. Unlike religious founders such as Jesus and Buddha, there is plenty of data to support the claim that he was a killer and a womanizer.
Strong, pointed criticisms of Muhammad are common and ongoing from all quarters, as in this page regarding Hindu news host Jai Maharaj:
"Muhammad was "in fact a terrorist, criminal and murderer whose entire life was based on victimizing innocents and indulging in mindless violence, carnage and massacre." Maharaj chronicled what he called were Muhammad's "criminal acts in the form of battles and murders", including the killing of four merchants during the sacred month of Rajab, the killing of 70 merchants and 900 men from Mecca, the killing of the poets 'Asma' bint Marwan and Abu 'Afak, and the initial motivation to kill followed by eventual expelling of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qaynuqa."
The occurrence of the acts described by Maharaj are not disputed in Muslim circles, only whether they were warranted. There is also much debate as to whether the number beheaded was closer to 400 or 900. Many men converted to Islam to save their heads. All women and children were enslaved.

user avatar
knirb 15 September 2012 - 6:29am

This is a war.
Innocent bystanders are dying in this war.
The killers are Islamic.
It is not a misunderstanding.
Deal with it.
"The function of a civil resistance is to provoke response" - Gandhi
Criticizing Islam and it's prophet is a right that Muslims have been denied by tyrants such as those doing all the killing. Rather than subvert "extremists" who dare to poke violent fanatics in the eye, we should applaud their efforts to undermine and expose Islamic bullies' attempts to impose their archaic beliefs on the rest of the world.

user avatar
Awesome Ted 15 September 2012 - 7:30pm

As I recall, a fanatic Christian went nuts in Norway last year. All in the name of your so-called war.
The killers are on both sides. The misunderstanding too. Small minded people like you make the situation worse.

user avatar
knirb 15 September 2012 - 9:08pm

Actually, denial makes things worse. Your ability to make distorted comparisons remains awesome. Last year, a lone sociopath killed 69 of his own people.
Each month, hundreds die in politically/religiously motivated attacks by Muslim fundamentalists. Last week alone (Sept 8-14), the recorded body count was 256 with 641 critically injured in 46 Jihad attacks. 3 of them were by suicide bombers.
A few months after Breivik's attack, over 200 people were blown up in a truck bombing by Islamic fundamentalists in Mogadishu. 101 were killed, many of them students. I'm sure you can't recall this one as it probably was too much information for your awesomely limited consciousness, and perhaps because, as a fairly common occurrence, it received little attention from the media.

janv 15 September 2012 - 12:44am / canada

This just goes to show how idiotic religion, oh sorry, I mean mythology is!

Anonymous 14 September 2012 - 9:41pm / NL

Would it also be 'freedom of expression' when we made a movie about Anne Frank, depicting her as a.. let us say, prostitute?

sofaman 15 September 2012 - 2:16pm


user avatar
knirb 15 September 2012 - 6:36am

Your point is moot. No one was killed over a cartoon depicting Anne Frank in bed with Hitler. It, and other anti-Semetic material was posted by the Arab European League as a childish, unseemly retaliation for the Danish cartoons that much of the Islamic World reacted so shrilly and savagely to.

david22 14 September 2012 - 7:47pm / france

why when you talk about jewish it's illegal

Vera Gottlieb 14 September 2012 - 7:24pm / Switzerland

What is there to 'understand'...stop fear and hate mongering, stop poking Islam in the eye.

lazaro diaz sanchez 14 September 2012 - 5:13pm / usa

Protest is a right, not a crime, but what they are doing is the product of ethnic and tribal society where they live, they can not understand that here there is freedom of expression and citizen that these facts are not rejectable product U.S. Government, if individual citizens.

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