Sunday, September 30, 2012

The innocence of Islam

I just wasted 14 minutes watching the very poorly produced film, “The Innocence of Muslims”.  Normally, I would post a link to a YouTube video I mention, but not this time. Most teens with an iPhone can make better movies.  Yet, this is the film that has outraged Muslims and sparked protests, first in Arab countries and now in North America and Europe. 

Undeserving of attention but difficult to ignore
If the reaction to this film, created by an Egyptian Coptic Christian living in the United States, had not resulted in deaths and social unrest, I would dismiss the film as ridiculously stupid (which it is).  “The Innocence of Muslims” is simply not worth the trouble it has caused. It deserves no attention.

However, the film’s notoriety makes it difficult to ignore. This film is neither art nor documentary. It is a pathetic attempt at propaganda intended to discredit Islam through the crude portrayal of the Prophet Mohammed.  As others have stated, it portrays the prophet as a fraud, a womanizer, and a child molester. To these insulting representations, I would add that the film also portrays the prophet as a buffoon, and his followers as brainless minions.

While I am not surprised at the reaction to this film, I am surprised that this shoddy video has garnered so much attention.  There are likely hundreds of poorly produced propaganda videos posted on YouTube. Most of them remain obscure. Someone, or a group of individuals, disseminated this particular YouTube video for malicious reasons.

Protests have little to do with faith
The majority of protestors in Arab nations cannot have seen the video. Goggle restricted its access in some Arab countries to comply with the laws of those countries. Other countries blocked access to the film. There is a strong sense that Muslim extremists, using social media, orchestrated the protests. 

Maybe the protestors truly believe that they are defending their prophet’s honor. It is more likely, though, that these protests have little to do with Islamic faith, and a whole lot to do with power and ideology.

There is a consensus in the international media that the protests express political and social frustration. Analysts give three main reasons for the protests. There is a struggle within Islam between extremists and moderates. There is frustration with the economy and the slow pace of rebuilding a society following the Arab Spring.  There is also the ever simmering anti-American sentiment and general suspicion of western culture.

Religion is the scapegoat in a complex web of realities
These protests reflect a complex web of realities; religion is the scapegoat. This is nothing new. Historically, those in positions of power and religious authority have misused religion to rationalize intolerance, to legitimize violence, and to further political agendas.  When this happens, religion is more about ideology and power than faith.

Most of the world’s religions are based on an ethic of compassion and non-violence. Islam is no exception.  Violence, ostensibly in the defense of religion, is a poor way for believers to exercise their faithfulness. So is the making of a film that attacks and denigrates another religion.

This small-minded film, "The Innocence of Muslims",  has been thrust into a spotlight on the international stage. It has no business being there. The poorly made film is not responsible for the madness that has ensued anymore than Islam is to blame. Culpability lies elsewhere, in the complexities that shape human societies. 

No comments: