Freedom Of Speech: Insults, Incitement And Islam
By Graham Peebles
24 September, 2012
Across the Muslim World there is rightly outrage and hurt at the latest calculated attack on Islam, in the form of the film trailer Innocence of Muslims. All who hold human rights and moral decency close to their heart share their indignation.
Freedom of speech is a basic human right, protected under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (i), which states 1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference. And 2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression. Rights enshrined in law that are nevertheless denied to many, rights supposedly honoured in democratic countries.
Expressions of free speech that are little more than propaganda, that consciously incite hatred and spark acts of violence are rightly restricted under the very law that protects our freedom of expression. Article 20, paragraph 2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
Innocence of Muslims
The deliberately amateurish film with no real narrative portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a violent and lascivious fool. It is cheaply made, poorly acted and directed, and as a piece of filmmaking it is to be dismissed out of hand, but as The Guardian 17/09/2012(ii) put it “the really sinister thing is that all this ham-fistedness and crassness is an important sense deliberate. It has to look like propaganda for the provocation to be effective.” The actors claim they did not know what the film was about, or it’s purpose and some speak of suing the producers. The BBC reports, (iii) “ One actress featured in the film said she had no idea it would be used for anti-Islamic propaganda and condemned it.” Offensive dialogue that insults Islam and the Prophet Mohammed has been crudely added after filming.
The trailer was written and produced in the USA by Nakoula Basseley, a Coptic (Egyptian) Christian living in California , who drafted much of the script whilst serving a prison sentence for fraud. And directed, according to Gawker (iv) “ by a 65-year-old schlock director named Alan Roberts …. He’s the creative vision behind soft-core porn classics like The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood.” Whether a full film version exists is speculation, the trailer however has done its toxic, destructive work.
Basseley says his wife’s family paid for the film, but it is still unclear how it was funded or what the cost was. Whatever the amount, it is hard to justify any expense at all on a film rooted in such prejudice and hatred, which serves no purpose other than to hurt and insult Muslims throughout the World, reinforce negative stereotypes, incite violence and fuel division. The film is as The Guardian 17/09/2012 state “a bigoted piece of poison calculated to inflame the Muslim world… it might be risible were it not for the ugly Islamophobia which it promotes and whose effects are now being seen around the world.”
The film has unsurprisingly prompted widespread protests throughout the World. On the 11 th September In Cairo protesters scaled the walls of the embassy, pulled down the US flag and called for the expulsion of the US ambassador to Cairo . In Libya the U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American staff members were killed in the American embassy in what appears to have been an unrelated pre-planned military style attack, as The Observer 16/09/2012 comments “ The murder of US diplomats was not carried out spontaneously, but by a jihadist militia that wanted to kill Americans on the 9/11 anniversary.”
Protests directly triggered by the offensive, degrading film, have since taken place in countries with large Muslim populations, sadly causing as the BBC 14/09/2012 (v) reports more loss of life. “ Three people were killed when the US embassy in Khartoum was attacked, Sudanese state radio said. In Tunisia , two people were killed after crowds breached the US embassy compound in Tunis . There was one death in Egypt and one in Lebanon .” In Yemen hundreds of students demonstrated in the capital Sanaa and demanded the US ambassador be expelled, thousands waved flags on the streets of Beirut and chanted “ America hear us – don’t insult our Prophet.” The Guardian 17/09/2012 (vi) reports that Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah has “called for new demonstrations to express outrage at a film that denigrates Islam and the prophet Muhammad. “Prophet of God, we offer ourselves, our blood and our kin for the sake of your dignity and honour,” Nasrallah told supporters who chanted “death to Israel ” and “death to America ” at a rally in the southern Shia suburbs of Beirut .”
The Philippines Indonesia, usually calm Qatar , Afghanistan , London , Kashmir , all have witnessed demonstrations and in Pakistan access to You tube has been blocked by the government, the Prime Minister, rightly describing the film as “”blasphemous.” Such is the deep-seated feeling amongst the people of the Muslim community. An open wound has been deliberately inflamed and the people cry out in anger and frustration.
Free speech or incitement
The film and the reaction to it, has prompted much to be written and spoken about unrestricted free speech and the dangers of censorship. Writing in The Observer Nick Cohen argues that, “ Nothing, however vile, justifies censorship. Even in the hardest of cases such as this anti-Islamic film, the old arguments against censorship remain the best .” The observation of basic human rights is the foundation for any democratic society and free speech is a fundamental requirement. Where it is absent totalitarian control of one kind of another becomes possible, perhaps inevitable.
There are though many methods of control and restriction of freedoms, both crude and subtle. Is for example the manufacturing of consent, a form of sociological coercion commonplace in America (and elsewhere) compatible with freedom and/or democratic principles of independent thinking and participation. Noam Chomsky, “the anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious, and for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow.”(vii) The ‘Great Beast’ is of course us – the 99%.
The making and distribution of this film is not an expression of freedom of any kind, it contributes nothing of value to the political environment or social discourse and has no artistic merit. The Anna Lindh Foundation reinforces this view in their statement made on 16/09/12 , asserting “ Innocence of Muslims is an inflammatory pamphlet, the distribution of which – on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th – cannot be abridged to a manifestation of freedom of expression.” (viii)
International law, acting as a guide and aid to clarity of thinking, states there are limits to free speech. Where such expression is clearly based on racial or religious hatred and incites violence, then it is illegal and the perpetrators subject to prosecution. For where the law is infringed consequences follow – something Israel should be made aware of. What is crucial is the motive. If something is spoken, written, painted, drawn, filmed etc. with the premeditated intention of causing offense, because it is rooted in hatred of one kind or another it is outside the law.
Freedom of expression is indeed a fundamental human right, but it does not stand alone, or above other related rights, such as human dignity and mutual respect. All need to coexist and indeed all are indivisible.
Unless the filmmakers of Innocence of Muslims are completely naïve or plain stupid, they would have known that producing a film in which the Prophet Mohammed is portrayed, as a violent, promiscuous simpleton would inevitably cause offense and would probably result in violent demonstrations. Therefore the film breaches international guidelines on free speech, and should be banned, its makers charged and prosecuted. Al Jazeera 14/09/2012( ix) quote the filmmaker Danny Schechter , whose view on the film is clear: “ It is very political from beginning to end. It’s not about free expression; it’s about propaganda. The film is incitement – it’s not information, it’s not filmmaking and it’s really intended as a technique of war-making.”
What good can possibly come from continuing to allow such a distasteful film to be circulated? It serves no purpose other than to provoke further potential violence. Enabling Muslims to be marginalized and demonized once more, constructing some perverse justification for continued American and Israeli intimidation, aggression and the spreading of paranoia. Allowing this film to be shown or not has little to do with censorship and/or free speech, and to reduce this issue to such notions is a convenient, distraction, fabricated in order to avoid discussing the filmmakers intention and the underlying causes of Islamists hurt and anger, which arise largely out of American foreign policy.
Simmering resentment “the safeguard of justice” (x)
Opinion amongst large numbers of Muslims throughout the Muslim World towards America is overwhelmingly negative. The Pew Research Center (xi) found in a recent survey that “ There remains a widespread perception that the U.S. acts unilaterally and does not consider the interests of other countries. In predominantly Muslim nations, American anti-terrorism efforts are still widely unpopular.” In fact according to the Pew report only 15% of Muslims have confidence in President Obama, approve of his foreign policies and hold favorable views of America in general. Pew state, “In a number of strategically important Muslim nations, America ‘s image has not improved during the Obama presidency.” In fact it has deteriorated, as US policies throughout the region continue to cause consternation amongst large numbers of Muslims, (and of course more widely).
American support for Israel ‘s illegal occupation of Palestine , which violates a host of international and indeed national laws and contravenes numerous UN resolutions, is perhaps top of the list. Followed by the Iraq war US involvement in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen, long running proxy wars in Somalia, and US support for what the BBC call ‘friendly dictators’. Add confinement without trial, abuse and torture in Guantanamo and Bagram prisons, the burning of the Qur’an by US soldiers in Afghanistan and Florida Pastor Terry Jones and disrespecting the dead bodies of Afghans. The list is indeed long and damning, and so it goes on.
The recent demonstrations were simply sparked by the film Innocence of Muslims; it was of course not the root cause of the protests. As the BBC 15/09/2012 (xii) state “we are witnessing profound anti-Americanism, dormant for much of last year, fused with religious extremism – with the controversial Innocence of Muslims film merely a trigger.” Of course extremists were involved they never miss an opportunity, their violent actions distorting the events feeding prejudice and creating a convenient diversion from the issues.
US ideals of peace justifying conflict
All violence is to be condemned and the attacks that caused deaths and injuries resulting from these protests are no exception, they should not be allowed to take centre stage though, and it must be stated that the vast majority of actions undertaken have been peaceful and without incident. The Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF) says in relation to the protests that “ the vast majority of Muslim public opinion has expressed its anger to the release of the film peacefully and individually, and the Arab governments of the region have reiterated their commitment with cultural inclusiveness while condemning the attacks to diplomatic delegations.”
To speak with solemnity and shock, calling for justice against the perpetrators of violence as US officials have, is expected and indeed right, albeit hypocritical and reactionary. In order to create peace however it is necessary to remove the causes of conflict, in this case those causes are complex and not confined to one poorly made deeply offensive film. Offensive let us add, not just to Muslims, who are understandably enraged, but to all right minded men and women respectful and tolerant of others beliefs and cultures.
American foreign policy is seen by many to be that which seeks to extend the influence and maximize the power of America , safeguard their interests at the expense of others and the natural environment and support criminality – Israel comes to mind. Such distasteful American foreign policies go back decades, as Noam Chomsky states in The Guardian (xiii) “Even in the 1950s, President Eisenhower was concerned about what he called a campaign of hatred of the US in the Arab world, because of the perception on the Arab street that it supported harsh and oppressive regimes to take their oil.” A perception proved to be correct.
Ideologically driven, rooted in a desire to export worldwide an American version, or vision, of democracy, which they claim to be the highest ideal for all. The attitude is that when all follow America ‘s lead on matters relating to economics, politics, religion and social affairs, peace will inevitably follow, and not until. With this doctrine in mind America has sought to dominate the world, repeatedly making war in the name of peace
Peace though is beyond ideology. For peace to envelop our world as men ad women everywhere hope, there must be tolerance, cooperation and understanding of others, not ideological imposition – of any kind. The equitable sharing of natural resources, of knowledge, ideas and experience will create justice. Dissipating mistrust and resentment leading to peace and a natural movement towards unity that encourages the greatest possible diversity enriching the lives of us all.
London September 2012
Graham Peebles is Director of The Create Trust, www.thecreatetrust.org A UK registered charity (1115157). Running education and social development programmes, supporting fundamental Social change and the human rights of individuals in acute need. Contact , E: graham@thecreatetru
Western freedom to insult can look a lot like hypocrisy
Muslims want free speech principles in the West to be applied consistently.
EMBASSIES are attacked, diplomats are killed and protesters march with unbridled aggression from east to west. Once again the Islamic world and the West are at loggerheads over two conflicting principles: the right of freedom of speech against the right to defend one’s honour. Masked by the violence is a repetitive discourse occurring between the two.
The argument put forward by the liberal-secularist is that freedom of speech necessarily includes the right to offend Islam and that Muslims should be mature enough to accept these insults.
The Muslim argues it is well understood that freedom of speech is not absolute and that exceptions are routinely made in the case of blasphemy. Why then do these exceptions not apply to Islam and its prophet?
The right to freedom of expression has been articulated both in the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, it is well understood that this concept is not absolute.
The covenant states that restrictions are imposed in ”respect of the rights or reputation of others” or ”for the protection of national security or of public order”. Even within the United States, the most liberal in terms of freedom of expression due to the First Amendment of its constitution, defamation and censorship laws do exist.
In other words, there is a fine balance between the freedom of speech and the freedom to offend.
Freedom of speech is curtailed if it dishonours unjustifiably or if it can cause harm to the wider public. The Muslim would argue that the West often fails to reach a just balance when dealing with Islamic issues.
There are many examples that highlight this inconsistency. The most obvious are the rights afforded by Western societies to those who deny the Holocaust.
Holocaust deniers, putting aside one’s personal revulsion at those who seek to cast doubt on this historic tragedy, are not given the right to express their opinion across 17 European nations where such activities are considered a crime.
The EU further advocates an optional maximum term of three years in jail to all member nations for denying or grossly trivialising crimes such as the Holocaust. In this case, the West in general has taken the position that denying the Holocaust is an abuse of speech, which is criminal or borders on criminal behaviour.
Muslims would question why there is such a restrictive stance on Holocaust denial while blasphemy against the prophet is deemed a ”human right”.
There are more contemporary examples. In the past week, an advertisement in Britain showing a pregnant nun eating ice-cream was banned for having ”mocked Roman Catholic beliefs”. One could wonder whether the same judgment would have been made had it been Islamic beliefs in question. One could also question why a 19-year-old Muslim teenager in Britain was charged and convicted last week because he posted on Facebook a sentence about soldiers that was considered ”derogatory, disrespectful and inflammatory”.
To add insult to injury, the French, who recently allowed their media to mock the prophet, ironically banned the democratic right to protest against these very cartoons.
To a Muslim this smacks of hypocrisy and duplicity. Muslims would argue that when it comes to freedom of speech, the West applies a different set of standards for Muslims that it uses to cater for its own cultural sensitivities.It shows the concept is not applied equally in Western jurisdictions.
The Islamic world must admit that its reaction to the insulting video and cartoons was unacceptable and contrary to the prophet’s teachings. But there are also questions the West has to answer.
Western society has used freedom of speech as a moral bludgeon against Muslims, criticising them as being uncivilised for their apparent inability to adhere to the same values as ”free societies”. Yet the West has double standards when it comes to interpreting the same values it claims to uphold.
This inconsistent and perhaps biased application of this value, only compounds the hurt Muslims feel when the prophet of Islam is mocked. This perspective towards understanding the reaction of Muslims towards recent events has long been overlooked.
Dr Amjid Muhammad
Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/western-freedom-to-insult-can-look-a-lot-like-hypocrisy-20120924-26haw.html#ixzz27TCCSqaX
Obama and Clinton Celebrate Freedom to Insult Islam
Ideas & Philosophy International Affairs — 13 September 2012
The American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s claim that she finds the anti-Muslim film which has led to protests erupting across the Middle East against American diplomatic missions “disgusting” is a worthless gesture as far as the culpability of the American government for this affair goes, as well as an expression of the fear the US administration has regarding the impact on US interests from the powerful response from the ‘Muslim street’. It is worthless because in the same statement she also made clear that the US does “not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be”. In other words, I don’t agree with the film’s content, but I don’t disagree with allowing it to be produced and promoted in the United States to the World.
This is the same point that was made by President Obama when he claimed that the death of four American staff in Libya were “a reminder that the freedoms we enjoy – sometimes even the freedoms we take for granted – they’re only sustained because there are people like those who were killed, who were willing to stand up for those freedoms, who were willing to fight for those freedoms, in some cases to lay down their lives for those freedoms”.
It is quite clear that this is an issue of principle for the American government – linked to the claim of “freedom of expression” that is enshrined in their own holy text, the US constitution, and the normal refrain of Western politicians and media when it comes to excusing anything that insults Islam and inflames Muslim sentiments.
Given that this is the case, it is disingenuous for the US government to simultaneously claim it is not responsible for the film while maintaining the legal environment that allows such materials to be freely produced and promoted. It is plainly hypocritical to celebrate the freedom of expression that permits the movie, while trying to wash their hands of any culpability for it.
It could be pointed out that the concept of freedom of expression is not upheld unconditionally in the West. For example, in the past a number of suspected communists were jailed in the United States in the heated environment created by Senator Joe McCarthy, while today it is illegal to deny the holocaust in some countries and at the same time across the West many Muslims have been imprisoned on charges of “glorifying terrorism”, purely related to expression.
So it is not illogical for Muslims to believe that “freedom of expression” is used against them when justifying the denigration of their beliefs, and left to one side when it comes to individuals from the Muslim community expressing themselves against Western foreign policy for example.
However, the issue is more fundamental than the hypocrisy displayed in the application of “freedom of expression” – which is that the idea of unrestricted speech is not in agreement with Islamic doctrine, and is considered a destructive concept which destroys harmony in the society.
The examples of this in Islamic law are many – one example would be the law mentioned in the Quran that someone who accuses another of fornication and then does not produce four eye witnesses to the act is to be publicly punished, thus protecting peoples’ honor and reputation. Another would be that it is forbidden to insult the Prophets of God, such as Moses, Jesus and the final Prophet of Islam Mohammad.
In others words, while the American government celebrates the “freedom” it guarantees in this case to allow people to provoke Muslims by insulting their Prophet in a cheap, hate-filled and slanderous manner, Islamic belief rejects such behavior as depraved and illegal.
The reality is that allowing the insulting of the Prophet Mohammad is a red-line that cannot be crossed for Muslims. Many of these protesters around the World can see that this film, innocuously entitled “The Innocence of Muslims”, has been produced and is being promoted under the protection and legal framework of the United States – whose government has expressly confirmed their right to do so – and hence quite fairly hold the American government ultimately responsible for it, irrespective of whether or not the Secretary of State personally agrees with its contents.
This leaves us with the question of why offended Muslims feel the need to protest at the site of the American embassy, which can end up in violence spiraling out of the control and, in the case of the storming of the American consulate in Benghazi, the unjustified killing of the staff there (the killing of ambassadors is expressly forbidden in Shari’a law), an unfortunate consequence of what began as a protest for the sake of Islamic values.
The reason for this is that across the Muslim world, there is no single government that represents Islam internationally and would take suitable actions such as open condemnation of the film and requesting the American government to remove it from circulation. Of course, the American government could refuse this on the grounds of “freedom of expression”, which could then be met with whatever sanction they were able if their request were not complied with such as the cutting of diplomatic and economic ties between the two. The point being – there would be a government which is representing the Islamic viewpoint regarding these issues, and people would look to it to take firm stances in their interests, and it can be dealt with at a state level. In the absence of such a government, people take to the streets to express their anger, a sight that is likely to become more visible in the new Middle East without the same Western backed dictators such as Hosni Mubarak around anymore to keep them in check.
If such a government – representing Islam and Muslims rather than a nominal nation state – did indeed exist, the issue of relationship with the American government would be a moot point in any case. With American troops on the ground in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and predator drones killing “terrorists” (which according to the US government is any Muslim adult male who happens to be in the path of one of their missiles) with impunity in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and yes – in Libya – it is unlikely there would be any room for friendly relations until American behavior radically changes. While Obama fools himself into thinking that the US is the World’s “indispensible nation”, many of its innocent victims would beg to differ.
On 14th September, 2012 – in the UK, Azhar Ahmed was found guilty of “grossly offensive communication” by posting a facebook message stating that “all soldiers should die and go to hell”, when commenting of the deaths of 6 British soldiers killed by an IED in Afghanistan.
In the United States, On April 12 2012, Tarek Mehenna was sentenced to 17 years in jail for translating an openly available e-book by an al-Qaeda member that had already been widely quoted elsewhere, and supporting the right of Muslims to defend themselves when occupied (while being against the world view of al-Qaeda and the targeting of civilians)
Reza Pankhurst is a political scientist and historian, specialising in the Middle East and Islamic movements. He has a doctorate from the London School of Economics, where he previously completed his Masters degree in the History of International Relations. He was a political prisoner of the previous Mubarak regime in Egypt, spending almost 4 years in jail between 2002 and 2006. His forthcoming book is entitled “The Inevitable
Headline Ideas & Philosophy — 24 September 2012
The Muslim world has risen once again over the blasphemous film insulting the Prophet of Islam. Although such blasphemous material against the Core beliefs and Creed of the Muslims in the forms of books, theatres, pictures and verbal commentary can be found in the archives of Western Civilization dating back to centuries, in recent years such provocative and sacrilegious attacks on the Prophet of Islam or the Quran has become a tool through which the Western Civilization and its proponents emphasize the ideals which define the Secular West and her civilization. Ever since the birth of the Liberalism in Western Europe and its spread and adoption by countries which now constitute the “Western World”, the leading states of the West have emphasized the universality of Western ideals and promoted “Liberalism” as a global ideology for all to embrace.
After destroying the Ottoman Caliphate, which epitomized the Muslim Civilization and its beliefs, the Western World introduced “liberal” ideology to the Muslim World through European colonialism. But unlike the Americans who also were introduced to “liberalism” through European colonialism and who embraced “liberalism” as an ideology while shrugging off political and military control of European colonialists, the Muslim World rejected not just the political and military control of their lands but “liberalism” as an ideology as well. This is because before the secular revolution in Western Europe, the Islamic Caliphate led the World and pursued the policy of expansion of her frontiers inviting the nations of the world to the Islamic Ideology in which the Muslims had deep conviction and belief. From the time of the first four Caliphs after the death of Prophet Muhammad till the great Ottoman Sultans the military might of the Caliphate helped her expand her frontiers, but it was the intellectual superiority of the Islamic Ideology which won the inhabitants of these new lands to the ideology carried by the caliphate. It is this intellectual conviction in the correctness of the Islamic ideology which caused the Ummah to resist “liberalism” when it was forced upon it by European Colonialists.
In his famous essay titled “The Root of Muslim Rage” published in The Atlantic Magazine in the September of 1990, prominent Western thinker and Orientalist, Bernard Lewis used the term Clash of Civilizations to explain the increasing rejection of Western values and Western civilization by the Muslim World. Explaining his views, Bernard Lewis argued that the concept of Separation of State and Church is unique to the Christian World and that the Muslim World’s experience with religion was totally different from that of Christian Europe. Lewis says:” Muslims, too, had their religious disagreements, but there was nothing remotely approaching the ferocity of the Christian struggles between Protestants and Catholics, which devastated Christian Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and finally drove Christians in desperation to evolve a doctrine of the separation of religion from the state….. Muslims experienced no such need and evolved no such doctrine. There was no need for secularism in Islam….” .
Celebrating the triumph of Western Liberalism, after the fall of communism, American philosopher Francis Fukuyama authored a piece in 1989 “The End of History” in which he went as far as to suggest that with the fall of communism, humanity’s intellectual quest for a universal ideology has ended. Although the essay was more a product of euphoria which had overwhelmed Western philosophers, who were overjoyed on the collapse of the Soviet Union, even in his euphoria Fukuyama admitted that “Liberalism’s” universality didn’t extend to the Muslim World. Fukuyama wrote:” In the contemporary world only Islam has offered a theocratic state as a political alternative to both liberalism and communism. But the doctrine has little appeal for non-Muslims, and it is hard to believe that the movement will take on any universal significance”. Fukuyama’s thesis about “Liberalism’s” universality was later rejected by his fellow American thinkers, especially, by Robert Kagan in his essay published in 2008, titled “The End of End of History” in which he argued that after the fall of communism it was the political and military power of the Western World which created an illusion of “Liberalism’s” Universality and not the intellectual superiority of the “Liberalism”. In other words, the Western World muscled the nations of the World in to adopting the liberal ideology.
But it was the work of American political scientist Samuel Huntington which he presented in his book “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order” published in 1996 which powerfully challenged the notion of the “Universality” of Western Civilization. Huntington states:” Throughout Western history first the Church and then many churches existed apart from the state. God and Caesar, church and state, spiritual authority and temporal authority, have been a prevailing dualism in Western culture. Only in Hindu civilization were religion and politics also so distinctly separated. In Islam, God is Caesar; in China and Japan, Caesar is God; in Orthodoxy, God is Caesar’s junior partner. The separation and recurring clashes between church and state that typify Western civilization have existed in no other civilization. This division of authority contributed immeasurably to the development of freedom in the West.”
So the debate about freedom of expression and placing limits upon it in the West as well as asking the Muslim World to understand the limitations of Western Governments and their helplessness in stopping such hateful material against Islam from being published in their societies, is a misleading one. It is misleading because it assumes the universality of Western Civilization and the idea of separation of the state and Religion. Hillary Clinton’s denouncements of the sacrilegious film and its creator are aimed at protecting American interests in the Muslim World by cooling the tempers there. She neither intends to nor believes that such material should be lawfully banned in Western societies because for the Western Civilization there is nothing wrong in creating such a film except for the political fallout of such an act. So Hillary the politician condemns the film but Hillary the ideologue rejects the violent outrage in the Muslim World over it. Neither Hillary Clinton, nor Barack Obama would ever publicly admit the notion of the Clash of Civilizations, which this film so resoundingly signifies. This is because the idea of “Universality” of Western Civilization is a tool employed by Western governments to extend political, economic and military control over the non-Western World.
As for the Muslim World, “looking the other way” is not an option. The consistent and massive mobilization of the Muslim World as a reaction to the repeated attacks on Muslim sanctities by elements from the Western society is enough to prove the unwillingness of the Muslim World to simply “ignore” this issue. More than that, this is a powerful message from the Muslim World to Western societies that they do not believe in Western ideals based on the separation of religion and the state. “Ignoring” the issue or “looking the other way”, for them, is an implicit acceptance of the doctrine of separation of state and religion. But violence and rampage in Muslim streets is also not the answer. So what is the way forward?
The Dilemma of the Muslim World is that it is governed by liberal state structures which espouse the separation of the state and the religion, a legacy of European colonialism. So while the Muslim World erupted in fury against the blasphemous film, the liberal state structures governing Muslim populations did not respond to the Muslim Street. So the demands from the Muslim streets were not channelized in to political actions by governments in Muslim lands like expelling Western diplomats, threatening Western interests or cutting alliances with Western governments. Quite the opposite. Scenes of angry mobs marching towards American embassies and consulates with the state machinery mobilizing and employing heavy handed tactics to protect them signified this dilemma. In the clash of civilizations, between Islam and the West, the Muslim governments are siding with Western states.
The idea of clash of Civilizations is rejected by Muslim Governments as well as majority of the academia in the Muslim World. Not because there is no clash of Civilizations, but because both the Muslim governments and the liberal Muslim academia have convinced themselves of the universality of Western Civilization. They have borrowed the experience of the Christian World about religion and have incorrectly applied it on Islam. They consider the rejection of Western Values by the Muslim World as an outcome of Islamic fundamentalism and they insist that the Muslim World adopt the Western Ideal of Separation of State and Religion. In their opinions and their views, they echo the Western World. But they are gravely mistaken. As Huntington put it :”The underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and obsessed with the inferiority of their power”. Unrest, resentment and instability in the Muslim World will continue to exist unless state structures in the Muslim World are radically changed to represent the aspirations of the Muslim masses to unite the Temporal with the Religious and to revive the Political Power of Islam and the Islamic civilization which existed under the caliphate.
Moez Mobeen is an engineer residing in Islamabad and a freelance columnist who regularly writes on Muslim Affairs.