How do we respond to the havoc caused by one stupid film?

Let’s be honest for a moment.  When you first heard about the protests and riots in Muslim countries in response to the Innocence of Muslims film were your initial thoughts along these lines?

“These Muslims are reacting in a considered and appropriate way to a film that has won universal support and approval from leaders all around the western world.”

No, me neither. Obviously.

It was instead for me one of those “Oh no, here we go again” sinking feelings.

Let’s be clear about this film, having seen the trailer it can only be described as shocking; shockingly poor production and acting and shockingly poisonous in its motives to offend.  And as we know it did indeed offend.

I’m not an expert on Islam, but I’ve friends who’ve worked in Pakistan and hearing them speak you get a sense of just how incendiary it can be in many Muslim dominated countries if anything is perceived to be insulting the prophet Muhammad.

Western leaders have denounced this film as strongly as possible and yet it has had no apparent effect.  Instead we’ve had examples like Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, calling for more demonstrations on a national scale and beyond:

“Prophet of God, we offer ourselves, our blood and our kin for the sake of your dignity and honour,” Nasrallah told supporters chanting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” at a rally in the southern Shia suburbs of Beirut. “The US should understand that if it broadcasts the film in full it will face very dangerous repercussions around the world.”

Of course no right-minded broadcaster would broadcast the film or have anything to do with it.  This is the frustration.  The intense outrage against something that the vast majority of those protesting have not seen and have no understanding of bears no relation to the more informed reaction of those in Europe and the US.

You’re left wondering if anything will get through to these people.  Can they ever be persuaded that no one of any standing has any respect for this pathetic excuse of a film and that their violent reactions have been universally condemned?  Why do many of them think it is acceptable to persecute those of other faiths whilst hypocritically making death threats if they feel their own has been insulted?  Looking at what’s been happening day-by-day the senselessness of it all becomes more and more overwhelming.

Tony Blair on Radio Four’s Today programme said that he believes it will take a generation for these attitudes to change  and that in the meantime there is very little that countries on the outside can do.  He described the internal conflicts these countries are dealing with:

“There is a struggle in the region between the forces of modernisation “and these very powerful forces of reaction based on a perverted view of religion”.”

The interview also touched on the fact that part of the reason why so many in these countries have a hatred of the US and the West is because of interventionist foreign policy and the wars in Iraq.  Most in these countries believe that the West is out to oppress them and deliberately attack their religion and values.

The danger for us observing what is going on is to lump all Muslims together and say that they are irrational extremists who are unable to defend their faith without resorting to violence.

Of course this is not true.  The Muslim Council of Britain has issued a statement, which concludes by saying:

“We urge that such vile actions of a few on both sides must not be allowed to
create divisions. Understanding, mutual respect and peaceful dialogue must
prevail. We hope that others will join us in condemning both the violence in
Egypt and Libya, and the irresponsible actions of the film’s producer.”

Even so the temptation, especially if we don’t have any Muslim friends, is to harden thoughts and feelings towards a faith that although similar to Christianity in some ways is actually very different.  When Christians have become used to living with criticism and scrutiny of their faith, trying to respond to questions and challenges with grace, it’s not always easy to understand why some Muslims are unwilling to engage constructively or decide to act in a threatening way if their beliefs are put under the spotlight.

It’s a challenge to take an interest in those who are different from us.  It’s a lot easier to dismiss or ignore them.  When we begin to build walls, we begin to dehumanise people.  Muslims in other countries might be too far out off reach to do anything about, but those in our country are not.  In our supposedly open society, we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge and question others’ beliefs, but more importantly we need peace makers who are willing to break down walls, fight prejudices and build bridges between communities instead.

If Christians can’t find it in themselves to do it, when Jesus gave the instruction to love our neighbour, whoever they are, then who can we expect to do it instead?  The more pictures we see on our TV screens of people overwhelmed by hatred and intolerance, the more important it becomes that we don’t fall into the same trap and let even a milder form of those feelings towards others infect our hearts too.

Categories: Islam, Media, Persecution

Tags: , , , , , , ,

18 replies

  1. Of course no right-minded broadcaster would broadcast the film or have anything to do with it.

    Absolutely right. Doesn’t stop the EDL stirring things up of course:

    EDL threaten to screen Innocence of Muslims

  2. One simple solution, at least here in the UK: engage. It’s something that some local branches of CCJ — the Council of Christians and Jews — are very good at. For anyone who lives in or around London, I recommend CCJ Hillingdon’s monthly meetings, where interfaith dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims is alive and well in at atmosphere of mutual respect: CCJ Hillingdon: What’s On. I think it’s difficult to overstate the importance of meetings like these, where there’s no hidden agenda about converting people but rather a determination to understand one another.

  3. As you indicate, the violent reactions are not just bout that dreadful film, which I’m ashamed to think was made by people who call themselves Christians. I haven’t seen it and don’t want to from what I have heard about it. I think the film was merely a trigger. The violent reactions have much deeper causes, including interventionist foreign policies by western countries. Internationally it’s hard to see what the ordinary person in the UK can do, apart from encouraging respect, getting to know Muslim neighbours, doing all we can to promote peace and social justice in the world. I’m horrified to think that EDL is threatening to screen the film.

  4. As Phil has said there is quite a lot of positive interfaith dialogue going on and several examples were mentioned at the Westminster faith debates with Muslims and Christians working together on some social projects. The church of England is very good at brokering this type of collaboration and something that Archbishop Rowan has been very keen on. The Authorities have tended to engage with moderate Muslims so as to isolate the extremists.The police also tend not to over react In some northern towns there is some tension amongst the younger population partly due to the E.D.F.but overall it is managed well in the U.K.. When on retreat last year at Worth abbey we did a whole session on good conversation, enquiry, listening, genuine interest in the other persons experience and affirming what is so for them. Not speaking in a provocative or cynical way with the intention to mock. Those monks were the first people i thought of when i saw the violence on the news. With their approach the film would not have been made, but if it had the response would have been one of dialogue. We share something very special with Muslims and that is Jesus. For them a prophet but is he also ”Turn the other cheek” and ”love your enemies” ??? We talk about the right to free speech a lot at the moment but should we challenge people more about”responsibility of speech” yet it is clearly easier for us to criticise and affect the film makers. How to approach a set mind that cares not to listen and is prepared to use extreme violence I just don’t know what the answer is !!!

  5. Sorry i meant E.D.L. I’m getting my leagues and fronts all mixed up

  6. Your final two paragraphs point the correct response and should be a way forward with the many Muslims. Please to learn that’s what their Council would wish. It’s good to hear from Phil and Graham about dialogue. I want to remark on a few other points:

    First, I’ve read this sub-standard video was produced about a year ago and much later translated by and shown on a Salafist channel in Egypt. (According to experts, it’s not dissimilar to what’s recorded in Islam’s own authoritative accounts.) Therefore, the video was used as a pretext for violence at a specific time. This opinion’s also held by London’s counter–extremism unit, the Quillam Foundation, who also recognise that the attack in Libya was a deliberate, pre-planned terrorist operation.

    The black flag raised is not an Al-Qaeda flag, but the very ancient Shahada of the 9th Century caliphate! This indicates the motive at the heart of the mob – to return to the days of Mohammed and the ‘Islamic golden age’, with its jihad against all infidels!

    Western leaders hastily apologised for the offence but should spell out the fact that democratic societies allow freedom of speech; there’s no direct government control of the media as in Muslim societies. It’s just one of the many differences between our cultures and, in actual fact, our freedoms should not be subverted to the demands of the Sharia! So, let’s dispense with abject apologies as though in ‘dhimmitude’ and maintain that anyone committing violence is responsible for their action, whoever/whatever they are or wherever they live.

    Imho, we need to stop being guilty about our historic role in the world, which would be radically different without Great Britain. On the other hand, according to those who study Islam, it’s core doctrine is that of a conquering, colonial political system rather than the usual kind of religion.

    Your quotation of Tony Blair accords with the claim by Open Doors about the battle for the soul of Islam (your post 17th July). He could be correct about it taking another generation for attitudes to change. But it’s not impossible for that to happen sooner. A few Christians known to me have had insights into this as a major event. Others are getting insights into how this may fit into an imminent end-days scenario. Also, it’s known that Jesus has been appearing to many Muslims in dreams, and it was reported at a recent conference in Birmingham there are about 2 million underground believers in Iran.

    You rightly state, Gillan, that Muslims’ faith is actually very different to Christianity. Not knowing and not appreciating these differences makes it hard for us to process and handle the havoc. Yet we need to meet, talk with and love these folk as much as Jesus does.

  7. Reblogged this on Richard's Watch and commented:
    Another well argued and presented viewpoint from Gillan Scott, with several comments including those of your truly.

  8. I read somewhere (of course I can’t find the link now) that the permits that were needed for the film were obtained by a “Christian” media company. This annoys me, because I feel like most educated Christians realise that treating Mohammed like this in a film (or any other form of media) would only serve to infuriate many Muslims.

    I also think that part of the problem might have to do with a lack of education and accurate news reporting that those protesting are able to access. Can we truly blame people for reacting the way that they are when basically everyone around them is telling them to act that way? When you don’t have access to free press, it can be hard to find out the actual truth of a situation. It can be hard to even realise that what you’re being told by the local media isn’t even true.

  9. Thats true Rhea / Richard all those countries where violence has erupted are in the main non democratic so do not have a free press. People are paying a very heavy price in the middle east for trying to obtain the democratic freedoms that we take for granted. We must pray that as dictatorships fall what replaces them looks more like democracy. We do not yet know what will fill the power vacuums in countries like Egypt and Libya. It must be very hard to change from an authoritarian form of government overnight and the ways of democracy need to be learned over a period of time.The role of our government is to support and advise these emerging democracies because this type of change needs the consent of the people and cannot be imposed from outside. Islamists will not allow this to happen without a fight which makes it far more difficult to achieve

    • Islamists will not allow this to happen without a fight…

      Can we rephrase that, please? Islamic fundamentalists… or Islamic extremists… — to lump all Muslims together as “Islamists” (which your comment appears to do, Graham, though that may not be your intent) is to make the same mistake as the protesters make about Americans or, indeed, Christians. Muslims are no more all the same than Christians and I think it’s essential to make that — and that we understand it — clear.

  10. Gillan et al,
    You may be interested that a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Walid Shoebat, claims that the offensive video trailer was, in all likelihood, produced as a terrorist scam.

    This renowned peace activist arrives at that conclusion after examining the contradictions and falsehoods within the media accounts, plus his own previous investigations into the characters and his connections in and direct knowledge of the Middle-East. There are far too many facts that can’t be married up.

  11. “In our supposedly open society, we shouldn’t be afraid to challenge and question others’ beliefs”….. Well, in a perfect world this would be true, but we all know what happens if you challenge the “religion of peace” dont we? Correct cut throat for you!

    Theres no way on this earth I would “Challenge” a muslim on its faith…. it would be suicide. I would much rather get on with my life and keep a safe distance until our civilised country had rid herself of this cancer of Islam, which masquerades as a religion.

  12. “Can we rephrase that, please? Islamic fundamentalists… or Islamic extremists… — to lump all Muslims together as “Islamists” (which your comment appears to do, Graham, though that may not be your intent) is to make the same mistake as the protesters make about Americans or, indeed, Christians. Muslims are no more all the same than Christians and I think it’s essential to make that — and that we understand it — clear……”

    Well Phil, that was written like a true Dhimmi mate wasnt it? Islamic fundamentalists / extremists are just words the grovelling West have invented. The true name for Muslims is just Muslims mate. Good Muslims are the ones that obey the Qran and Hadiths and try to kill all infidels and dominate the world…and bad muslims are actually the ones who no longer obey the tennets of the “faith” and have Westernised themselves peacefully.

    Any Muslim scholar will agree with this, and Mullah or any “proper muslim who is set on murder.
    So please do not suppose to put us all right with your teachings and and ensuredness that we all “understand” as you put it.

    Muslims are NOT the same as Christians or American Indians, they are set on world domination and the others are not.
    You need to reasd up on the meaning of Dhimmitude.


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