Reactions to the offensive movie “Innocence of Muslims” has been on the headlines recently. I decided not to write on it because I couldn’t find the time and because emotions were still high. I am not sure the latter has changed.
Frankly, I can’t say I followed a lot of the debates around this issue but I think I have gotten the general picture: there are the hurt Muslims seeking immediate retribution; there are Muslims condemning violent reactions; and non-Muslims… (Surprisingly I don’t recall a non-Muslim voice; unless news channels count as that). So excuse deficient information is what is happening.
I would like to briefly share an idea, which I haven’t heard being discussed. I have heard the idea that Muslim majority countries should boycott Western countries and sever economic relations until instigators are punished. But that may not be sustainable. Let Muslims try a tested solution. For this solution, whether reaction to the movie is right or wrong is not relevant. The issue is concerning freedom of speech.
The big idea is that Muslims should organize and fight this menace via legislation and policy.
There is the perennial debate concerning Freedom of Speech (whether it should be tethered or not) which needs to be settled, but that debate is not likely to be extinguished. Instead Muslims could learn from Jews; how Jews succeeded with Laws against Holocaust Denial. Narratives that undermine the Holocaust was hurtful to the Jews and accordingly they pursued the Law against Holocaust Denial (Even though the clauses used were more centered around safety of Jews). At least 17 European countries have implemented these laws. Therefore a cartoon (or movie) that undermines the holocaust is likely to earn its producers some jail time.
When Islam is insulted, Muslims will react. Past events have shown violent reactions; From Satanic Verses to the Danish Cartoon to the Quran Burning Campaign to now Innocence of Muslims. Right or wrong, as sure as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow, I know Humans will react to insults. Muslims are humans. Their reaction does not show Muslims’ tendency towards violence but rather, shows how much they revere what they regard as sacred.
I advice Muslims (institutions) should aim towards criminalizing mockery/insults of the sacred in their religion; on the grounds of inciting international security unrest. Given the precedence of such reactions, the movie makers could not have missed to anticipate this international reaction; the least they could have expected was to live the rest of their lives looking over their shoulders.
If at this point you are thinking: how could one compare the holocaust to insult? All comparisons will show inequality because the two situations have different elements; for the former you can count the dead, while the latter you can count those who would rather be dead than witness such insults. Such wounds if not arrested using legislation or policy, it can lead to disastrous ends.
What motivated Muslims to act violently is what motivated the Jews to form Israel; which is the Zionist controlled concentration camp for the Palestinians. Muslim institutions better take this seriously.
PS: 3rd October 2012
I stumbled into this link where the writer indicates that what I am suggesting is being pursued already. But perhaps not in an organized manner.